Bestselling George, in a ninth outing, takes on race relations in the moribund Essex resort of Balford-le-Nez. Melancholic Sgt. Barbara Havers, convalescing after the violence of In the Presence of the Enemy (1996), repairs to this seaside town when her sympathetic Pakistani neighbor at home, Taymullah Azhar, is called to Balford-le-Nez to assist with a crisisa "small family matter," he says, following the murder of an affluent immigrant about to marry into the even more affluent Maliks of Malik's Mustards & Assorted Accompaniments. Discovering that an old mate, the high-powered Emily "Beast" Barlow, is in charge of the case, Barbara volunteers her way into a liaison position when contentious Muhannad Malik, son of conservative corporate patriarch Akram, charges police prejudice and demands day-by-day accountability. Fired by a hotter English summer than any recently recorded, several plot ingredients simmer: daughter Sahlah Malik's Romeo-and- Juliet relationship with developer Theo Shaw, grandson of wealthy bigot Agatha Shaw; Sahlah's Juliet-and-Juliet relationship with a scheming shopgirl; and the Romeo-and-Romeo relationship of Haytham Querashi, Sahlah's murdered fiancé, with the boyfriend of his hired contractor. Though George manages to include a sea chase with her customary scenes of angst and accusation, she concludes the case with oddly scant reference to some important individualsamong others, Sahlah.
A vital issue is badly served by moralizing, predictable characterizing, Anglo-Saxon attitudizing (so much slang), and preoccupation with the weather (so much sweat). Ruth Rendell, in 1995's Simisola, explored the complexities of racial prejudice with less pretension and greater finesse.
"Satisfying indeed. Novelist Elizabeth George...has another hit on her hands."—Washington Post
"A vivid cast of suspects, an appealing team of sleuths...a country-house setting that will put readers in mind of the best of Agatha Christie. For fans of this type of puzzle, Payment in Blood is a must."—Plain Dealer, Cleveland
"A spectacular new voice in mystery writing...[George] invites comparison with both P.D. James and Ruth Rendell in the psychological interest of her characters and the intricacy and ingenuity of her plotting."—Los Angeles Times
"Complex, rich, and accomplished enough to elbow the author between P.D. James and Ruth Rendell."—Kirkus Reviews