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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 February 19, 2012

    Not up to the standard of other Inspector Lynley books

    I've long been a fan of the Inspector Lynley series, but Elizabeth George takes a nasty turn in this book, invoking serial killings of young boys and bodily mutilation. The solving of the crime and the interaction of Lynley and Havers made for suspenseful reading in other books in the series, but this story veers unnecessarily into gruesome events that marred the enjoyment of the book for me. Try some of the earlier and later books in this series instead.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 17, 2006

    Awful Ending

    Elizabeth George has usually been a favorite - but I felt betrayed by the ending. I see she has a new one out about the ending of this book, but don't feel I could even read it. I wonder if this is an attempt to redeem herself with her fans.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 9, 2006

    A very disappointing read for me.

    I have read the complete series of Inspector Lynley books and loved them all. But WNOAW is a departure from the other Lynley books. I did not like the subject matter of pedophilia and serial killing. And the ending was downright depressing. In her previous Lynley books Ms. George had the knack to transport me to a different country and culture. This book especially the ending seems to be taken right out of the Amnerican headlines. I would not recommend this read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 22, 2006

    Disappointed

    I have just finished WNOAW, all 772 pages. I was sadly disappointed with the terrible ending. I have followed the Lynly series from the very beginning and have enjoyed everyone of them but the ending of this one was deeply depressing.If this book is made into a TV movie, I will not watch it. Is this the end of the Lynly/Havers series?

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 12, 2006

    Is Elizabeth George becoming Patricia Cornwell?

    I went to great length to get my hands on this book- the settings that George creates are fabulous. The plot is weird from the beginning, though, and escalates in the way I found it with my other preferred writer, Patricia Cornwall. The evil enters at all levels, bent politicians, superiors who scheme to bring our heroes down, the hero's friends and family getting decimated continuously takes the reader into areas which are deep and really not helpful for a credible plot. Is this because George is afraid we might get bored of the characters she presented us with in the past (My favourite Playing for the Ashes)? I prefer any one of them to the weird profiler and the even weirder journalist in WNOAW. Still, I will read her next book, hoping to find some more of the (good) old same...

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 28, 2005

    Not as expected

    I was very disappointed with this book.It was not nearly as good as Elizabeth Georges past books.It was confusing in parts and made no sense in others.Killing off one of her main characters was a big mistake and having Lynley finish as she did was another.Perhaps this is what she intended,no more Detective Inspector Lynley books?

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 8, 2005

    Enough is Enough

    Elizabeth George has, until now, been one of my favorite writers. Her mysteries are well written and compelling. A bonus has been her indepth characters whom we readers have come to know well. They have become almost like family. In her latest, 'With No One As Witness' not only is the subject matter grisly but the psychological twists and turns are so dark that it is downright depressing. Added to that is the totally inappropriate death of one of our 'family', unnecessary, nasty, and leaving one feeling utterly hopeless. Fiction or not, why bother getting involved so deeply when you can read similar stories in daily newspapers, if that is what is appealing. In my case it is not.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 10, 2005

    Too Much Quantity and Too Little Quality

    I've been a huge fan of Elizabeth George from the beginning. I read all the books in order of publication, and for a long time I was amazed at how consistently good, and often exceptional, they were. She managed 8 or 9 fabulous books in a row which, let's face it, puts Grafton to shame. But this is the 4th consecutive Lynley that left something to be desired. Witness is really long on detail and red-herrings, but terribly short on a believable killer or a palatable m.o. And while writers have the unfettered right to do whatever they want with their characters, readers have the unfettered right to react as they will. My reaction to the 'big twist' here was not good. My very favorite relationship among these characters is forever altered and, frankly, between that, my decreasing satisfaction with the series in general, and my specific unhappiness with multiple aspects of this particular novel, I'm done too. Frankly, I'm heartbroken, and I just don't care any more. It's that simple.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 11, 2005

    Don't know if I'll recover

    Elizabeth George is by far my favorite author, and I have devoured her books for years. I re-read the old ones while waiting impatiently for the new. I enjoyed the character developement of Lynley's team very much in this book and always enjoy the plot twists and side-stories of George, but I have to say, I was heartbroken by this book and don't know if I will recover. I won't be able to read the past ones without a sense of loss as well. I feel I've lost the last 12 books along with this one. Hopefully P.D. James will write a new book and give Dalgliesh a less tragic end to restore my faith in the British mystery.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 24, 2005

    Devastated reader

    I have read this series since the 1980s and have fallen in love with the characters -- couldn't wait for each new book to see what was going on with Lynley, Barbara (would someone take her for a makeover), etc. The last thing I expected was that one of my 'friends' would be killed off, it was like a blow. I hope Ms. George comes to her senses and starts the new book with Tommy waking up from a nightmare. If Ms. George felt she had to write a dark story, she should have begun a new series, kill off a main character before a reader develops a fondness for them.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 2, 2005

    Was That Really Necessary?

    I am usually an avid fan of Ms. George's novels, but this one left me stunned and dismayed. I finished the book the day Terri Schiavo died, and I could not believe George would kill off such an essential character-- Lynley's pregnant wife, Helen--in such a senseless and abrupt way. And then to have Lynley quit the force... It just seemed like...overkill. This kind of grim brutality works well for Val McDermid, but I wasn't prepared for it here. Is this the end of the series? The serial-killer plot wasn't altogether convincing. However, I did think she did a good job developing Havers and Nkata here, in case the series does continue and they become the lead characters, but it wouldn't be the same without Lynley.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 4, 2005

    With No One As Witness

    Overall, I did not find this an enjoyable book. I didn't enjoy the constant troubles between Lynley and Hillier. I wanted more of a true mystery novel that focused on the facts of the case with less of the distractions EG added to this story. I had no problem with the basics of the serial killer plot or the search for the killer. But, the concentration of the book should have been more on the main storyline. Of course, some personal asides and personalities are necessary, but there was too much here. I was truly disgusted by the finale of the story regarding Helen. How totally unnecessary and what a terrible thing to inflict on the readers. If Elizabeth George did not want to write any futher Lynley/Havers books, there were much better, kinder, sensible ways to stop doing so than to end this book as she did. I sincerely hope that there are no Lynley stories after this one. I do not care to read about his state of mind any further. This current book was bad enough. I feel it was a real slap in the face to her readers to end the book like this. It was a totally unnecessary painful thing to inflict on us. I thought she went overboard writing about Deborah's miscarriages in past books. It was an area that did not have a lot of impact on the stories. She did write in past books about Lynley's pursuit of Helen and her initial reluctance to marry him. Finally that was taken care of and the novels went on. To end it like this is needlessly cruel to everyone.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 3, 2005

    I'm Done

    I have read everything Ms. George has written and I always eagerly await the next Linley/Havers novel. No more, however. I understand that her books have a dark undercurrent. How could they not, given the subject matter and the realism she imparts to all of her novels. However, I am finished. With the shocking twist at the end of this one, I have vowed to stop reading her books. There were very few reliefs from the chronic darkness and the Linley/Helen relationship was one of them. If anything, the normalcy (lately) of their lives provided a stark contrast to the insanity of Linley's profession. The contrast made the reality of his job even more chilling and like a good horror movie, provided a little bit of breathing room before the next onslaught. Killing off Helen was a cheap dramatic trick. Did the author think that the novel was unable to stand on its own merits and that it needed something to take it to the next level? Have these characters, and by extension the readers, not suffered enough? Did Ms. George feel that the marriage provided too much lightness and did she equate that with flippancy? Before I sound like a crazed fan who cannot tell the difference between fictional characters and real people, let me just say that I enjoyed this series due to the entire cast of characters. I was looking forward to seeing the transformation of Linley into a father and husband. Phooey, Ms. George!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 27, 2005

    Elizabeth George fails big time

    Reading this novel reminds me of how I felt watching Michael Jordan play baseball. I respected the emotions that were driving him, and he did an OK job at it, but I just wanted him to get it out of his system already and go back to basketball, which he played like no one else on earth. Like an angel. In With No One as Witness, Elizabeth George inflicts on us her restlessness with the world she so brilliantly created over the past 17 years. Instead of her gorgeously-plotted and intimate tales of normal people driven to murder, she strikes out into the territory of serial killers. It¿s a mistake. In the past, she¿s developed villains who linger in our memory for the richness of their characters and the awful logic that drives them to commit murder. But for the grace of God, any of us might be Robin Payne (In the Presence of the Enemy) or Sarah Gordon (For the Sake of Elena). In this book, she provides a serial killer, whose character verges on a parody of serial killers; a host of secondary characters who¿s motives are perplexing; and an inattention to versimilitude that is highly annoying and most unlike George. Oh, and she also stuffs the book with weighty themes including racism, child pornography, and the evils of tabliod journalism. But my real beef with this novel isn¿t that she branches off into an area that she handles less well: any author of a long-running series is bound to run out of ideas sometimes. And there¿s a long and honorable tradition of authors of one genre flexing their creative muscles in another area ¿ think of beloved crime writer P.D. James and her foray into science fiction (The Children of Men). But P.D. James was smart: when she wanted to branch out, she let her main series take a rest and created a whole different cast of characters for her attempt at science fiction. My real beef is that, unlike James, George is trying her hand at serial killing within the context of her long-running series, and the real victim seems to be the series itself. In the last chapters she kills off an essential character (but not by the serial killer) in a way that is so implausible that I¿m left feeling that she wrote this book on a Bad Plot Day. If you want to read about serial killers, find an author who¿s better at portraying this kind of evil. If you want to read about the continuing growth of Tommy, Helen, Simon, Deborah, and Barbara, cross your fingers that this was just an unfortunate experiment for this formerly fine author. Come back, Elizabeth. We love you.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 28, 2005

    SAD

    What a way to end for poor Helen. Was this a random killing? Kind of confusing but bottom line, ridiculous turn of events. If EG is ending the series, why on such a negative note?

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 31, 2005

    With No One As Witness

    I have read all of Elizabeth George's books. For the most part, they have been great. But I did not find this one enjoyable. I didn't enjoy the constant troubles between Lynley and Hillier. I wanted more of a true mystery novel that focused on the facts of the case with less of the distractions EG added to this story. I had no problem with the basics of the serial killer plot or the search for the killer. But, the concentration of the book should have been more on the main storyline. Of course, some personal asides and personalities are necessary, but there was too much here. I was truly disgusted by the finale of the story regarding Helen. How totally unnecessary and what a terribly unwarranted thing to force readers to deal with. If Elizabeth George did not want to write any futher Lynley/Havers books, there were much better, kinder, sensible ways to stop doing so than to end this book as she did. I sincerely hope that there are no Lynley stories after this one. I do not care to read about his state of mind any further. This current book was bad enough. The way she ended this book was a real slap in the face to her readers and was an undeserved painful 'twist' to inflict on us. I thought she went overboard writing about Deborah's miscarriages in past books. It was an area that did not have a lot of impact on the stories. She did write in past books about Lynley's pursuit of Helen and her initial reluctance to marry him. Finally that was taken care of, they got married and the stories went on. To end it like this is needlessly cruel to everyone.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 23, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

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