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With No One as Witness (Inspector Lynley Series #13)

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Most Helpful Favorable Review

4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

What can George do with her characters now?

The latest in Elizabeth George's Thomas Lynley novels, "With No One As Witness", delivers a shocker about 3/5 of the way through the book. It's an event that, quite frankly, you will never anticipate, and it's completely unnecessary to the plot, unless Ms George got tir...
The latest in Elizabeth George's Thomas Lynley novels, "With No One As Witness", delivers a shocker about 3/5 of the way through the book. It's an event that, quite frankly, you will never anticipate, and it's completely unnecessary to the plot, unless Ms George got tired of the way Lynley's life was going and wanted to be able to move him off in another direction. We'll have to see what happens in her next book - if indeed there is a next book.

That being said, and that plot twist aside, this is an excellent addition to one of the best British police procedurals being written today. Lynley and his two primary assistants, Barbara Havers and Winston Nkata, have never been more human, more alive - especially considering the subject of this latest entry in the series. George writes her story with great tact, and most of what she says on the subject is implied. Of necessity there are some scenes that may turn your stomach, but these are kept to a minimum and George does not draw out her descriptions of these scenes.

Considering the hue and cry that emerged when this book came out, I will anxiously be awaiting news of the next book in this series - although as I said before, I wonder.....

posted by nprfan1 on November 23, 2008

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Most Helpful Critical Review

1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

Depressing and tired

Writing a successful mystery series novel demands a rare blend of creativity and artistic steadfastness. It¿s possible to be an excellent writer and yet not be able to consistently deliver a fresh and compelling yet familiar universe. Sue Grafton, Dorothy Sayers and P...
Writing a successful mystery series novel demands a rare blend of creativity and artistic steadfastness. It¿s possible to be an excellent writer and yet not be able to consistently deliver a fresh and compelling yet familiar universe. Sue Grafton, Dorothy Sayers and PD James have that ability. Elizabeth George, sadly, does not. George¿s first seven novels in the Inspector Lynley series were a dazzling marriage of clever whodunits, lyrical descriptions of atmosphere, and rich psychological portraits of characters that readers came to love passionately. But as the series has gone on, George¿s books became longer, more elaborate, and more of a literary experiment than a good mystery story. After reading A Traitor to Memory, where much of the book is eaten up by a complicated and barely relevant subplot told from the viewpoint of a male violinist, I began to wonder whether she had the stamina to sustain a long-running series. After reading With No One As Witness, I¿ve concluded that she¿s not. Unlike PD James, she seems unable to steer her characters through a long lifetime. She has not devised a plot evolution that would blast Simon and Deborah out of the rut of their failed pregnancies and as a result their story has become boring over the last three novels. She has fallen into the trap of creating the same characters over and over again: in Witness, her description of the budding relationship between Winston and Yasmin is so similar to the description of Tommy and Helen¿s courtship that it provokes a groan of ¿oh, no, not again!¿ Writing a series requires some steadfastness of artistic vision ¿ if your series is a mystery, you must be able to continue writing in that genre and resist the temptation to morph it into science fiction or hard-core thriller. PD James has understood that boring but powerful rule George has not. In Witness, she goes for a new genre, part mystery and part thriller, and ends up with a confusing hybrid that doesn¿t satisfy on any count. In other recent books, George has experimented, unhappily, with stream of consciousness or with eccentric points of view. These efforts reek of an author bored with her creation, and leave her loyal readers wondering when, if ever, they¿ll see another ¿classic¿ George mystery. And readers are losing patience: each book sells less well than the previous one, and Witness¿s sojourn on the bestseller lists was uncommonly short for a book so long awaited. The series novelist must have the ability to live with her characters for a long time. Agatha Christie put up with Hercule Poirot for¿.40 years? PD James is still going strong with Adam Dalgleish after nearly 30. Yet barely 15 years after introducing Helen Clyde, Ms. George kills her off, and in a manner so implausible that it caused ¿ in me, at least ¿ just about the worst reaction a writer can engender in a reader: instead of wholeheartedly entering the world of the story, I pulled back and found myself wondering what on earth is wrong with Elizabeth George. Many critics of Witness have -- rightly I think -- characterized the series as ¿tired.¿ The book feels as if Elizabeth George is tired of the series, tired of her characters, tired of the constraints of being a mystery writer. Tired, even, of the tedium of good workmanship. Witness includes a number of egregious factual errors about her characters that are surprising to long-time series followers. Surely she has achieved a level of financial success that would enable her to hire a fact checking assistant, or perhaps even re-read her manuscripts herself? Boredom, fatigue, creative well run dry -- whatever the reason, Ms. George should take a looooong vacation before pushing out another book in the Lynley series.

posted by Anonymous on July 20, 2005

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 27, 2007

    With No One as Witness - A Disappointment

    I have read most 'maybe all' of Ms. George's Lynley mysteries and I was extremely disappointed in this one. Movement is slow because of extraneous information. A good editing of the novel was in order. But the most disappointing of all was her brutal killing of Helen Lynley which had nothing to do with the case Lynley was investigating and was a brutal inclusion. That, aong with Lynley's interminable conflict with Webberly, apprears as an attempt to make Lunley into an Adam Dalgliesh-type character in future novels, if there are any future Lynley novels. I probably will not reading any future books by Ms. George's.

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 20, 2005

    Depressing and tired

    Writing a successful mystery series novel demands a rare blend of creativity and artistic steadfastness. It¿s possible to be an excellent writer and yet not be able to consistently deliver a fresh and compelling yet familiar universe. Sue Grafton, Dorothy Sayers and PD James have that ability. Elizabeth George, sadly, does not. George¿s first seven novels in the Inspector Lynley series were a dazzling marriage of clever whodunits, lyrical descriptions of atmosphere, and rich psychological portraits of characters that readers came to love passionately. But as the series has gone on, George¿s books became longer, more elaborate, and more of a literary experiment than a good mystery story. After reading A Traitor to Memory, where much of the book is eaten up by a complicated and barely relevant subplot told from the viewpoint of a male violinist, I began to wonder whether she had the stamina to sustain a long-running series. After reading With No One As Witness, I¿ve concluded that she¿s not. Unlike PD James, she seems unable to steer her characters through a long lifetime. She has not devised a plot evolution that would blast Simon and Deborah out of the rut of their failed pregnancies and as a result their story has become boring over the last three novels. She has fallen into the trap of creating the same characters over and over again: in Witness, her description of the budding relationship between Winston and Yasmin is so similar to the description of Tommy and Helen¿s courtship that it provokes a groan of ¿oh, no, not again!¿ Writing a series requires some steadfastness of artistic vision ¿ if your series is a mystery, you must be able to continue writing in that genre and resist the temptation to morph it into science fiction or hard-core thriller. PD James has understood that boring but powerful rule George has not. In Witness, she goes for a new genre, part mystery and part thriller, and ends up with a confusing hybrid that doesn¿t satisfy on any count. In other recent books, George has experimented, unhappily, with stream of consciousness or with eccentric points of view. These efforts reek of an author bored with her creation, and leave her loyal readers wondering when, if ever, they¿ll see another ¿classic¿ George mystery. And readers are losing patience: each book sells less well than the previous one, and Witness¿s sojourn on the bestseller lists was uncommonly short for a book so long awaited. The series novelist must have the ability to live with her characters for a long time. Agatha Christie put up with Hercule Poirot for¿.40 years? PD James is still going strong with Adam Dalgleish after nearly 30. Yet barely 15 years after introducing Helen Clyde, Ms. George kills her off, and in a manner so implausible that it caused ¿ in me, at least ¿ just about the worst reaction a writer can engender in a reader: instead of wholeheartedly entering the world of the story, I pulled back and found myself wondering what on earth is wrong with Elizabeth George. Many critics of Witness have -- rightly I think -- characterized the series as ¿tired.¿ The book feels as if Elizabeth George is tired of the series, tired of her characters, tired of the constraints of being a mystery writer. Tired, even, of the tedium of good workmanship. Witness includes a number of egregious factual errors about her characters that are surprising to long-time series followers. Surely she has achieved a level of financial success that would enable her to hire a fact checking assistant, or perhaps even re-read her manuscripts herself? Boredom, fatigue, creative well run dry -- whatever the reason, Ms. George should take a looooong vacation before pushing out another book in the Lynley series.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 22, 2012

    Haven't received or read it yet!

    I ordered this book on line several weeks ago and haven't received it yet. Please let me know when I can expect its arrival. I'll be glad to give you a review when I've read it!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 27, 2007

    Too Long and Meandering

    I skimmed pages too. It just moved too slowly and didn't seem like one of the great novels Ms. George has written in the past. A little too graphic

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 9, 2007

    Last EG Book I Will Read

    I have read all of Elizabeth George's books and loved the characters. When I recall her past books, it is the characters and their relationships that I remember best and enjoyed the most. Of course I enjoyed the mystery and how it unfolded too. But with this book Ms. George seems to have charted a different course for her characters. This book was very dark, confusing, too long, and very tedious at times. I actually skimmed through about 300 pages. I hated the serial killer aspect-it was disturbing, grisly, and not what I expected. I hated that the storyline had so many kids being murdered (especially tortured in such a gruesome way). The final straw was in EG's destruction of the main characters. To kill Helen and her unborn baby was just brutal. Sure it happens in real life and in other novels, but that is not what I expected (or wanted) in an Elizabeth George mystery. I will not read the next book or any other future books of hers. It is sad and I will miss them.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 10, 2006

    What happened to Ms. George?

    First I am a long time fan, so I 'know' all the 'people' in Ms. George's books. I really don't mind if someone dies, but please! the death should at least make sense! There is toooo much wrong with this one to save it. The author seems to have lost her way. Ms. George isn't James Joyce or Faulkner. Did she have 'a' delusion of grandeur? She needs to stick with what she did well, or used to do well. She had turned Tommy into a idiot overnight. Move on to Donna Leon's books. You won't get lost in silly subplots, canned endings or wish you were reading or doing something else.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 19, 2005

    Lost Focus

    It is always disappointing when a favorite author loses focus. Clearly this is what has happened to EG. I found WNOAW choppy, hard to feel anything for anyone including Lynley! {Frankly, I always wanted to slap him and send Helen packing.} A tedious couple!! It took me forever to slog through it. Boring! Maybe EG needs to move on to something other than writing mysteries.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 19, 2005

    Another disappointment from E. George

    Once again, Elizabeth George has turned her back on the kind of mystery that made her reputation and produced a novel that is too long, overburdened by subplots, and curously riddled by factual errors. This time, she attempts a psychopathic serial killer novel, but falls far short of the level set by masters such as Ruth Rendell or James Patterson. The killer is neither creepy nor sympathetic, and is not even responsible for the most crucial death in the book. After three mediocre books, George seems unable to turn out another mystery like the early ones that were so highly acclaimed. It seems that this author, who fearlessly takes on subjects (such as the Pakistani experience in Britain) utterly removed from her realm of experience, was undone by the challenge of writing about a happily married Lynley.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 6, 2005

    Elizabeth George disappoints again

    What has gone wrong with Elizabeth George? For years, she delivered one stunning novel after another. From A Great Deliverance through Playing for the Ashes, each was characterized by brilliant plotting, rich atmosphere, deep psychological development, and, most especially, an engrossing evolution of her core characters. Then, starting a few books ago, George seemed to become lost in her vision of herself as an artist. Recent interviews hinted at her great admiration for John Fowler, and his capacity to ¿never write the same kind of novel twice.¿ She began setting more and more extreme goals for herself, such as writing about the Pakistani experience in the UK, or writing two novels within one. She seems to have lost sight of what¿s appealing about her work -- though she hasn¿t lost her focus on her career, which she refers to, obnoxiously, in capital letters, as in ¿Thanks to [my literary agent] the man behind the Career¿ (from her acknowledgements at the end of Witness.). The result of this unhappy evolution is With No One as Witness , as deeply disappointing mystery novel as I¿ve ever read. The book, which seems to be about a serial killer ¿ or is it about random violence? It¿s hard to tell, finally -- has a confusing and overly-complex plot, and is completely thrown off balance by the murder of Helen Clyde, which murder has no relation to the rest of the book. A minor but inexplicable irritant is its huge number of proofreading and factual errors. This former high school English teacher should either honestly abandon the mystery genre, which she seems to find too confining, and consacrete herself to ¿loftier¿ novels, or reconnect with the vision that brought her success in her earlier career.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 29, 2005

    Another disappointment from Elizabeth George

    No one can deny that Elizabeth George is a powerful writer. Unfortunately, her writing skills far outpace her ability to consistently turn out good mystery stories. Witness is the third book in a row that is less than good, and her brutal handling of central characters in this one leaves me with no desire to read any more of her novels. In Witness, she turns her lead character Inspector Lynley into a tentative and catastrophically inept 'un-hero' who fails to find the killer and contributes to his wife's death. At the end of the book, justice is not done, evil triumphs, and the characters of the continuing series are devastated by loss. I'm not saying that there's no place for darkness is a mystery novel -- JK Rowling's elegant handling of death in her latest book beautifully demonstrates how sadness and loss can serve a higher purpose. The problem with George is her sledgehammer approach. Blinded by her belief that 'characters are only interesting in their agony, not their joy', she fails to grasp that unrelieved angst is just as unsatisfying to read about as unfettered happiness. The result, in Witness, is a dark depressing book that makes you cry, sure, but also makes you want to drop her and find other authors with a better balance between dark and light.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 8, 2005

    Fundamentally flawed

    I did not like With No One as Witness ¿ that¿s putting it mildly ¿ but took me a while to identify what is fundamentally wrong with Elizabeth George¿s most recent book. The first time I read it, I sobbed hearbrokenly over the death of Helen, as many long-term fans did. When, in defense of her plot , Elizabeth George said that the death was necessary to ¿open up¿ the story, I realized why this book is a very major misstep for George. ¿Opening up the story¿ is writerspeak for asking dramatic questions that the reader is interested in and that can only be answered by the author. A Lynley fan for nearly two decades, I¿ve been keenly interested in learning the answers to dramatic questions that George clearly raised in earlier books. I¿ve eagerly kept reading the books ¿ even the most recent ones, which are far from her best -- because I¿ve wanted to know the answers to dramatic questions like ¿Will Tommy and Helen stay married, or will their differences drive them apart?¿ ¿How will Helen adjust to motherhood? Will she find it fulfilling, or will she find it stifling like her sister Pen did?¿ ¿Will Helen get over her deep sense of personal unworthiness?¿ ¿Will Tommy come to terms with the guilt that he carries around?' and, finally, ¿Will Tommy be able to protect Helen from the chaos of his professional world?¿ By killing off Helen, Elizabeth George has answered all those questions, with a single gesture: a stupid death, a door slammed, a ¿dead end¿ sign writ large. All my questions are answered. In the worst possible way. I have no further interest in reading her books. Yet I can¿t help wondering -- is this the reaction she intended? I suspect not, and that¿s what¿s profoundly wrong with this book: whether she knows it or not, it¿s the end of the story. George has broken her own rules, as she¿s said she likes to do. But she¿s broken rules that were there for a reason. Goodbye, Elizabeth George. I¿m off to find a new best author.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 18, 2005

    A longtime reader disappointed

    It is almost as if an old and trusted friend has suddenly become a stranger. Elizabeth George makes an uncharacteristic departure with the unnecessarily cruel death of Helen Clyde and her unborn child in this novel. The ending leaves the reader feeling stunned and hopeless, perhaps by the fact that the author has written something that seems so out of character, a true departure from the delicate complexity of her earlier works. It is almost as if she trying to keep pace with a world filled with increasingly senseless and unexplainable violence. If this is an attempt to provide some 'gritty realism', it was unusually heavy-handed and in my opinion, an insult to her readers. I can't help comparing this book unfavorably to Colin Dexter's last Inspector Morse novel, The Remorseful Day. In that book, although the end seemed inevitable, it was handled with a gentle respect that left the reader feeling a loss but no less a fan of the author for it. I am sad that one of my favorite authors has betrayed the trust I had that she would treat her characters with care, regardless of their ultimate fate.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 20, 2005

    Such a waste!! The Linley series deserves better

    I can see where a mystery writer may want to trim her cadre of characters...but not the CORE characters. I can only hope that she will re-think this book and perhaps reissue it in a 'director's cut' to change/modify or remove the terrible fate she deals her readers and her character of Helen.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 12, 2005

    I never finished this book

    Because the subject matter was disappointing and the usual subtlety of Elizabeth George's style was missing, and because I already knew what was going to happen, I did not finish this book. I consider that I did myself a favor.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 6, 2005

    Protest

    I am returning the book to Ms. George as a form of protest at Harper Collins Publishers, 10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 2, 2005

    'I, Too, Say Good-Bye to Elizabeth George'

    When I discovered Elizabeth George a few years ago I searched until I found all her novels, read them with delight and anxiously awaited her next release. I was disappointed with 'In Pursuit of the Proper Sinner' and 'In the Presence of the Enemy,' but felt she returned to her level of excellence with 'Traitor to Memory'. Therefore, I was thrilled when I bought 'With No One As Witness'. I persevered through 300 tedious pages of 'character / plot development' because I just knew this book would get better. Well, I was wrong. Ms. George can, of course, develop whatever story she wishes to write. I, of course, can choose whatever story I wish to read. I find no redeeming value in the sorrow and tragedy of this book. I am surprised that I felt a sense of personal loss at the turn of events in this plot. I also found it offensive that she could find no better way to develop this story. There are so many good books, and so little time . . . I will not spend any more of my time reading books by Ms. George. I'm sorry to say 'good-bye' to someone who used to be my favorite author.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 3, 2005

    With No One as Witness shows signs of fatigue

    Elizabeth George has been publishing books at a punishing pace for the last 15 years, and this is the third book in a row that falls below the standards of her earlier novels. Maybe it¿s crusty to suggest so, but she should have given herself a break rather than to alienate her loyal fans by publishing this particular book. In With No One as Witness, George tries her hand at writing about serial killers, a subject ill suited to her literary style: the tension that we expect in serial killer novels is weakened by the wordiness of her descriptions and the interplay of her characters. But that¿s not the worst thing about this book. Even worse was that she killed of Helen Clyde and her unborn child in the last pages of the book. Even worse was that, in doing so, George dropped a nuclear bomb on the world that she had painstakingly created over nearly two decades. And worst of all: she killed off Helen in a carelessly plotted sequence that feels like she was simply rushing to finish the book regardless of whether it made sense in the context of her own world. At her peak, George wrote plots that were as dark and complex as the yearnings of the human heart. Even when the conclusions were stark, as in Missing Joseph, the reader could go back through the novel and see how the end was inevitable, given the nature of the characters. Helen Lynley¿s murder is .. random, almost; and would not have occurred if the other characters had been acting in the way that George had created them. It just isn¿t plausible that Inspector Lynley -- upon receiving a direct threat from the serial killer to his beloved, pregnant wife -- would not send out the cops to protect her. And for a writer like George who puts such extreme emphasis on context, implausibility is the sign of something deeply broken. This novel leaves me with a very bad feeling. It¿s not just the shock and sadness of experiencing the death of Helen Clyde, who I¿d come to love in my imagination and my heart. It¿s the unease that comes from suspecting that the author may no longer be a trustworthy narrator. It¿s the same feeling of mistrust I would have toward Sue Grafton if she suddenly turned Kinsey Milhone into a serial killer or a gooey-eyed bride. But Grafton seems to have more staying power than George. I hope that this book just represents an aberration for George, written in deep fatigue. As a long-time fan, I¿d like for her to take a good rest, fill the artistic well, and then write more Lynley novels ¿ and with Helen alive. I¿d certainly be there waiting to buy the next book. I hope that this book does not represent a greedy attempt to exploit a ¿bigger, untapped market¿ -- as she suggested in an April 1 interview with Jeff Baker in The Oregonian. Whoever that market is, I, for one, won¿t be part of it. If you, like me, are a long-time fan of the Lynley series ¿ just go back and re-read the earlier books. This one is definitely worth missing.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 1, 2005

    Third below-standard book in a row

    I was a long-term fan of Elizabeth George, but with this book -- her third sub-standard one in a row -- I¿ve finally lost patience. I wish she would get off the literary scene until she¿s able to write a better product. The book has two serious flaws. The first, and lesser, shortcoming is in her portrayal of the serial killer, which is only weakly credible. The killer¿s psycological motivation ¿ the essence of this kind of criminal ¿ is poorly explained and not well sustained in the novel. Serial killers are supposed to be driven to killing the same type of person over and over. Here, the serial killer, who has been stalking black teenage boys, suddenly goes after Thomas Lynley. It¿s a jarring intrusion of incredibility that causes the serial killer plot to limp along. The second, a major, flaw, also is an error of ¿incredibility.¿ Readers familiar with Thomas Lynley over the course of a number of novels remember the extreme care he took to try to protect Helen from a presumed killer in Payment in Blood: he had constables at her doorstep in 20 minutes and tried to get Barbara Havers to keep her on the phone so the ¿killer¿ would not feel free to do her in. Earlier in ¿With No One as Witness,¿ he stands outside his front door to listen for the sound of her double-locking the door before he leaves for work. Yet readers are asked to believe that, when a pregnant Helen is threatened explicitly by the serial killer, he does nothing more than ask Deborah to ¿keep people away from her¿ while they are out shopping. The sheer incredibility of this jerked me out of the world of the novel and made me focus instead on the writer, causing me to literally throw up my hands and wonder what on earth George was thinking. Writers can write what they want to, and readers can judge as they will. I judge by comparing the plotting of this novel, which was an illogical rush to do away with an essential core character, with Elizabeth George¿s rather pompous pronouncements in Write Away, her recent book about her approach to writing fiction. ¿¿credibility is essential for a plot to work,¿ she says in Write Away. The characters, she continues, ¿Aren¿t just reacting out of nowhere. They aren¿t just reacting because I have to throw in something that¿s exciting to keep the plot going. There¿s a consistency and logic to what¿s happening.¿ Judged by her own standard, Elizabeth George fails with this book. Too bad she wasn¿t able to sustain the high quality of her earlier work.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 1, 2005

    George Falls Below Expectations

    I am an avid reader with a variety of interests in both fiction and nonfiction. I have read and enjoyed all of Ms. George's books and have always looked forward to her new releases. This book, without a doubt, falls far below what I would expect from her. I was so disgusted with content, plot, and ending I find I have no desire to ever read another book written by Elizabeth George.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 26, 2005

    Thumbs Down for With No One as Witness

    The epitaph for this book (¿Look into the abyss and it will look into you¿) sets the tone for this sprawling, nihilistic and deeply disappointing novel. Readers loyal to George for her precisely plotted tales of ordinary people caught in situations where murder is the only option will be disappointed by her foray into the world of serial killing. The killer ¿ comically named Fu ¿ doesn¿t ring true as a psychopath. And while George nicely captures the terrible stress that Lynley and crew are under while trying to catch him, her portrayal of Lynley¿s nasty boss Hillier is unconvincing. And this, from the writer who used to be one of the very best portrayers of psychological depth in her characters. In books such as Missing Joseph, for example, we come to really understand why Juliet Spence becomes a murderer. That¿s what gave the richness and staying power to George¿s earlier works. In With No One as Witness, we just don¿t get why people are acting the way they do. And we don¿t even care. I¿m a reader who adored George for the ongoing story of her quintet of core characters ¿ Tommy, Helen, Barabara, Simon, and Deborah. In Witness, George turns on them with a destructive frenzy that will surely stand as one of the most ill-considered plot evolutions of modern fiction. She kills off a character essential to the balance of her series in the most pointless, tear-jerking, and bleak manner imaginable. At the end of the book I could only throw my hands into the air and wonder what on earth George was thinking of. I only hope that in the whole body of George¿s work, Witness turns out to be an unfortunate detour. I hope that she¿s now exorcised whatever demons drove her to write this utterly bleak novel, and that she will find her center again in the Lynley novels¿with all her essential characters alive and growing. The only thing that makes me happy about this book is that it was passed on to me by a disgusted seat mate on a long-distance flight. I¿m glad I didn¿t have to buy it and risk her publisher misinterpreting my purchase as a sign of approval.

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