Thursday, May 10, 2018


Title: The Punishment She Deserves
Author: Elizabeth George
Publisher: Viking
Pages: 692
My GoodReads Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

Lately, it seems I’m only reading series, and clocking in too late. The Punishment She Deserves is the 20th book in the Inspector Lynley series, a series I’d never heard of before. But one that I liked enough to consider reading the other books.

The story begins on December 15, year unknown, when Gaz Ruddock, a police community service officer, breaks up the merrymaking of college students gathered at a local pub. The students include Finnegan Freeman, Dena Donaldson, Bruce Castle and Melissa Lomax.

On May 4, the following year, we presume, we meet Barbara Havers from the Metropolitan Police department. She is a detective sergeant at New Scotland Yard. She reports to Detective Inspector Thomas Lynley, who in turn reports to Detective Chief Sergeant Isabelle Ardery. DCS Ardery and her superior, David Hillier, are both fed up of Barbara and her unconventional behaviour and are looking for an excuse to transfer her.

Ian Druitt, a deacon, is arrested on charges of paedophilia. Taken into custody by Ruddock on a night when the regular police staff is busy with a spate of burglaries, Druitt dies in custody, and investigators deem it a case of death by suicide.

Druitt’s father, a wealthy man, refuses to believe the allegations against his son, or the judgement of suicide, and calls for an investigation. Isabelle and Barbara are assigned to Ludlow, the site of the incident, to determine whether the investigation was properly handled.

While Isabelle is convinced, Barbara believes that there is more to the situation. She soon becomes convinced that Druitt might have been murdered. She succeeds in convincing Lynley that her suspicions are right, and before long they are both sent back to Ludlow to investigate the truth behind the allegations against Druitt and the death.

Since the dateline does not include the year, it is initially hard to figure out the order in which events take place and which event influences which one. The story starts on December 15 and then jumps months forward to an entirely different set of characters, leaving us clueless about what might have happened on the 15th.

There were so many characters in this book. Initially it was hard to see how they were connected, and the point behind them all.

Each character seems to be on its own trajectory. We learn that Melissa, a brilliant student at college, suddenly decides to drop out and get married. That Finnegan’s mother is worried about him and has assigned Ruddock to keep an eye on him. That Finnegan’s parents’ marriage is on shaky ground. That Dena and Bruce have some relationship drama going on. That Dena has been through something unspeakably horrible in the past. That Melissa’s sister has killed herself and the family is disintegrating, even as the marriage of her parents has completely fallen apart.

There were some common themes that showed through these stories. Of men and women, several of them mothers, making terrible mistakes, but eventually, seeking to right things, make amends for what has gone wrong. And so, while there were terrible sins, there was also forgiveness and redemption.

As each of these stories played out, I wondered what they were doing there, and how they were related to the death that Barbara and Lynley were investigating.

My interest flagged just a wee bit but then again the delays and parallel track stories made this police procedural seem more realistic rather than the stories of Holmes and Poirot making deductions out of thin air, which though fun (and I speak as a huge fan), aren’t real.

I liked Barbara right from the start, and resented the derogatory tone with which Isabelle looked down upon her, and I positioned myself firmly by the side of Barbara. I was also impressed with the characterization of Lynley, who is an anachronism, a good man and a good policeman, wrapped in the body of a thorough gentleman.

There is drama in everyone’s lives. Barbara has the professional fear of transfer, besides the tap dancing class that colleague Dorothea cons her into taking up.

Isabelle is about to lose her twin sons as her ex-husband and his wife are planning to take them to New Zealand, her alcoholism might cause her to be fired from the force. Lynley has relationship troubles.

I liked the author’s style of writing: She decided to hold that on another burner of the cooktop.

Of Rabiah Lomax’s solicitor, Aeschylus King, He always sounded like a combination of an eighteenth-century gentleman, Confucius, and a fortune cookie.

What ran between them would have kept a refrigerator operational for at least a month.

I also liked the banter between Thomas Lynley and Barbara, where retort follows repartee, and they can finish each other’s sentences. It was good to see the manner in which they worked together. There were many lines when I chuckled softly to myself.

The conversation on the murder scene in Psycho was funny, as was the bit about Peace on Earth, the all-rounder at their hotel in Ludlow. There was also a reference to Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca de Winter who was murdered. There is a Shakespeare quote, the lady doth protest too much, and a reference to Cinderella’s coachman turning into a pumpkin, besides Lynley’s reference to Oedipus.

The author did a good job of bringing England to life. The descriptions conjured up images of the countryside of England. The British slang, with its repeated references to words like bonk, chuffed to bits, bloke etc, was interesting, though a little confusing at first, but I ‘twigged on’ to it eventually.

Initially, it seemed to me, that we were given far more information about the personal lives of the characters than was necessary for the resolution of the crime. As the book plodded on, I realized that since this is a series, loyal readers would welcome the chance to know more about the characters.

Overall, I liked the author’s style and the slow, simmering way with which everything came together.

But be warned that at 692 pages, the story took far too long to reach its conclusion. Also, be warned that the book contains references to sexual activity and some bad language.

I would have appreciated a few hundred pages less. Fortunately, every single loose end was tied up satisfactorily.

(I received an ARC from First to Read).

1 comment:

  1. The name Rabiah seems strangely selected. Not sure what to make of it. Her daughter-in-law is India, but she apparently is not, but she has a common Indian Muslim name. That is confusing.



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