Payment in Blood–Elizabeth George

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This is the second in the Inspector Lynley series, and honestly, I should have read it sooner. It’s been several years since I read the first one and I spend a good portion of the book trying to remember who all the recurring characters are and how they related to one another.

These are British police procedural books. Inspector Lynley himself is an aristocrat, but his sergeant Barbara Havers is not and she resents the aristocracy their privilege. Ergo, they are frequently in conflict.

In this novel, a group of people are gathered in the middle of nowhere Scotland to work on an upcoming play. The group includes the playwright, her sister (also an actress in the play) the sister’s ex-husband (also an actor in the play) a famous leading lady and her husband, the director and his new girlfriend, the producer and his family, a literary critic and the staff, which is just the producer’s sister (and owner of the hotel) the chambermaid, the handyman, and the cook.

The first night at the hotel, there’s a massive fight almost as soon as the read-through begins because the playwright has made massive changes. Everyone disperses and in the morning the playwright is found dead, stabbed through the neck in her bed.

Lynley is called in to handle it because the producer is also a titled aristocrat and they want him to be handled gently. (This kind of crap is why Sergeant Havers hates the rich.)

He gets there and finds that all the copies of the play have been burned. The producer claims that the playwright had discovered that his wife had been unfaithful to him years earlier and written a play about that to embarrass him and that’s the source of the fight. But no one can confirm that because 1) there’s no copies of the play around and 2) no one else is talking about what the play was about.

Within the next day, the handyman is found dead. Eventually they release the suspects and start looking for answers outside the Scottish hotel. They find that the producer was covering up far more than infidelity but also that the playwright had more than one dangerously damning project in the works.

I enjoyed this book, although I did resent the fact that at book 2, only book 2, you feel like you’re playing catch-up if you don’t already know all the main recurring characters and their connection to each other.

 

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