Elizabeth George, in "Believing the Lie," examines how base emotions--greed, jealously, vengefulness, and lust, to name a few--destroy relationships and lives. The story focuses on the dysfunctional Faircloughs, whose patriarch, Bernard, married a wealthy woman and has run a successful family business for years. When a member of the clan dies in an apparent accident, Bernard calls in a favor. At his behest, Assistant Commissioner Sir David Hillier dispatches Detective Inspector Thomas Lynley of New Scotland Yard to Cumbria to discreetly look into the matter. With the help of his old friends, forensic specialist Simon St. James and Simon's wife, Deborah, Tommy tries to determine if someone had the motive, means, and opportunity to orchestrate the victim's death.
"Believing the Lie" is a lengthy, complex, and melodramatic tale that picks up some of the threads left dangling in the previous installment. Tommy, a grieving widower, uncharacteristically throws himself into an imprudent love affair. Deborah and Simon are despondent over her inability to bear a child. In addition, the self-deprecating, lonely, and good-hearted DS Barbara Havers is once again involved in the ups and downs of her neighbor, Taymullah Azhar, his partner, Angelina Upman, and their adorable daughter, Hadiyyah. Tommy, Deborah, Simon, and Barbara join forces to uncover the secrets of the Fairclough clan. Unfortunately, their efforts may ultimately do more harm than good.
The author has created a large and juicy cast. Among them are: Bernard's squabbling adult children; an ambitious but inept reporter; a monstrous mother; a gorgeous but reticent Argentinean woman; and an impulsive fourteen-year-old boy who soothes his emotional pain by injuring himself and behaving recklessly. This is more soap opera than whodunit, since prurient revelations, not sleuthing, dominate the proceedings. Lynley and company spend a great deal of time asking repetitive questions and, in the case of Havers, conducting endless Internet searches.
Ms. George is a skilled writer who beautifully integrates setting and story (readers will be tempted to visit the Lake District thanks to her evocative descriptions of the gorgeous English countryside), and she includes some delightful moments of much-needed humor. Although "Believing the Lie" holds our attention, it is weakened by an over-the-top plot and a surplus of angst-ridden characters who make one foolish mistake after another. Fans will welcome the return of Lynley, Simon, Deborah, and Barbara, but "Believing the Lie" has too much sensationalism and too little depth to rank among George's best work. (Three and a half stars.)