Just One Evil Act. Elizabeth George. (Inspector Lynley Series #18) Penguin Group (USA). October 2013. 736 pp. pbk. ISBN #: 9783002015692.
Barbara Havers, a British detective, is remarkably distraught as it appears the daughter of her neighbor and friend, Taymullah Azhar, has disappeared. Azhar believes the girls’ mother, Angelina, has taken Hadiyah but he doesn’t know where. The police don’t have one clue on which to begin a search and after all it isn’t a crime for a daughter to be with her mother. Barbara Havers, however, has a most unusual response; she’s hacked her hair and is practically hysterical as she feels so close to the vivacious little girl. Add to that her immediate superior at work, “the Guv,” has it in for Barbara by capturing her every wrong move; unfortunately Barbara’s spontaneous sleuthing acts and offenses continuously feed the fires of her boss’s anger. That same boss, it turns out, is Inspector Lynley’s ex-lover, albeit quite a temporary affair.
Now begins the intricate and convoluted search for Hadiyah and Angelina, a futile endeavor exacerbated by Angelina’s hysterical appearance and announcement that Hadiyah has been kidnapped in Italy while wandering through a normally very safe market in Lucca, Italy. Almost everyone in the story has a bit of guilt and a part in this search suggesting questionable guilt as a motive for the kidnapping of the British girl. Did Angelina and her Italian lover plan to keep Hadiyah’s abduction a secret forever? Just how many lovers has Angelina had and how are they involved with the kidnapping of her daughter? Is Angelina’s present lover and supposedly fiancé so jealous that he would plan the kidnapping? Just how involved is the private detective Barbara and Azhar hired, fired, and rehired in the kidnapping? The questions arise like smoke from a raging fire.
The head of the Italian investigation is a vain man who wants to wrap up this case before the British press and police become an interfering pack of wolves. So he accuses a homeless drug addict who frequently saw Hadiyah in the town square and forces a confession from him. Inspector Lynley is sent over to be a liaison with the family and British police. A scurrilous journalist basically bribes Barbara for more fodder for his seedy newspaper, “The Source.” Barbara stays involved even when warned off the case by her boss.
Meanwhile we know that Hadiyah is being held captive with a very strange woman who lusts after the man who brought Hadiyah to her and at the same time has an unbalanced sense of sin and religiosity which she reinforces with a belt of thorns worn under her clothes. She is obviously so very mentally ill, a foreboding fact that poses a huge threat to Hadiyah who resists all efforts to be “saved.”
These are only a few of the details that intensify and become frighteningly more complex. At times one feels like one is lost in a maze that has no end, but there’s enough action to hold the reader’s intense concern and attention. The “who done it” aspect of the finale stunningly reveals a most ironic discovery and no easy ending. Inspector Lynley is a master detective who quickly earns the respect of his Italian counterpart; Barbara has great sleuthing skills but seems to anger almost all of her colleagues and acquaintances because of her out-of-the-box techniques that may or may not be against the law.
All in all, this eighteenth book in the Inspector Lynley series is a superb crime thriller destined to please every reader and eagerly anticipate the next Lynley installment from this very talented author! Thrilling read that this reviewer highly recommends!