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by Elizabeth George
New English Library, April 2004
664 pages
ISBN: 0340767103

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Elizabeth George is the author of the Inspector Lynley Mysteries, but in A PLACE OF HIDING he has a very peripheral role. Into the limelight step Deborah and Simon St James, well-established characters from the series who have not featured very much in the more recent books. This makes for a refreshing change and pleasing reunion for the reader, and also makes the novel easy to read as a standalone.

In her early twenties Deborah lived in the United States where her roommate, China River, was a big support to her in difficult times. One night China's brother Cherokee arrives on Deborah's London doorstep asking her for help in clearing China of murdering millionaire Guy Brouard in Guernsey. Deborah and her husband Simon, a forensic scientist, set off to investigate and find that the police are convinced that China is the killer and are not really pursuing any other leads.

The difficulty for the police though, is that there seems no real motive. China and Cherokee were only in Guernsey for three days, to drop off some architectural plans to Guy Brouard, who neither of them knew before they arrived. In contrast there are plenty of other people who may have wanted him dead.

The reader meets an interesting cast of characters including Guy's dying sister Ruth, who escaped from the Nazis with him as a child, and who has lived with ever since. His bullying first wife is there to try to ensure their adult son Adrian gets his rightful inheritance, his former mistress faces financial ruin, and then there are his friendships with two teenage islanders and the household staff to consider.

And that's not all. Guy had been about to build a museum to showcase the collection of wartime memorabilia collected by a father and son team, who have dedicated their lives to ensuring that they preserve the memory of what the islanders suffered during the occupation. Just before he died, though, Guy's plans seemed to have changed and this greatly upset the impoverished local architect whose designs appeared to have been rejected at the last minute.

The island of Guernsey is well depicted and a character in its own right. Whilst the history of the occupation is familiar to anyone who has visited the Channel Isles or studied the period it is an unusual and engaging theme to the book.

A PLACE OF HIDING is a long but well-paced novel, enabling the author to explore all the characters in depth. The individual stories of the islanders are very absorbing and it's well worth investing the time to read about them. The ultimate resolution to the main plot is suitably unexpected, but a little hard to credit. The conclusion of one of the sub-plots however is much more memorable and has greater emotional impact.

If you liked the earlier Lynley novels and can forgive Deborah and Simon's occasional self-absorbed bickering over the nature of their own relationship, you'll be rewarded with a very enjoyable read. Recommended.

Reviewed by Bridget Bolton, September 2004

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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