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From Barnes & NobleThe Barnes & Noble Review
In Deadly Pursuit
You don't think of the Agatha Christie style of novel as being overhauled, but in fact, a number of very good writers have been pushing the cozy into some brave new areas. Nancy Pickard, Joan Hess, and Carolyn Hart, to name just a few, have demonstrated that the cozy can be serious as well as seriously (or pointedly, if you prefer) funny.
Over the past decade, Elizabeth George has also been pushing the Christie-style mystery into richer and more rewarding areas. Her new novel, In Pursuit of the Proper Sinner, is so rich in character, incident, and theme that one finally has to take it seriously, not just as a mystery but as a novel as well. I'm not going to say that it "transcends the mystery genre," because that's offensive to mystery writers. And rightly so. But I will say that, in much the same way that Sharyn McCrumb has expanded the range of the serious crime novel, George has also pushed her particular form to the limits.
The central plot deals with two bodies found in a circle of prehistoric stones. Who were they? How did they get there? Did the victims even know each other? Detectives Thomas Lynley and Barbara Havers find themselves caught up in a mystery that grows more perplexing the longer they contemplate it. As usual with George, the mystery itself is well devised and a lot of fun to speculate on as you read.
George is now a far better stylist than she was in her first few books, and she has also backed off some of her more labored descriptions of place.Hercharacters have deepened, too; they're more morally ambiguous than they once were — the good not quite so good, the bad not quite so nasty. She seems more comfortable with police routine, too. Those sections are more animated now, less like riffs on textbook pages and background notes.
There's a lot of tricky stage management here, and George pulls it off with great stylish ease. She lingers when it's appropriate to linger and speeds up when the story starts to lag. There are a lot of people and a lot of subplots, and pacing is critical to a novel of this size and scope. Elizabeth George has written a fine, intense, thoughtful, and sometimes stunning novel of passion and betrayal. I haven't read all her novels, but I can't imagine that she's written a better one than this.
Ed Gorman's latest novels include Daughter of Darkness, Harlot's Moon, and Black River Falls, the latter of which "proves Gorman's mastery of the pure suspense novel," says Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine. ABC-TV has optioned the novel as a movie. Gorman is also the editor of Mystery Scene magazine, which Stephen King calls "indispensable" for mystery readers.