Missing Joseph

Missing Joseph  - Elizabeth  George I loved the first Lynley mystery, A Great Deliverance, which moved me to tears and I rated five stars. I really like George's style of writing--it flows so well--and her detectives--especially Havers, even over Lynley. I've read that the later books (there are 16 to date) are stronger than the early ones, but so far, with an uptick here and there along the way (I did love Well-Schooled in Murder) these novels seem to be getting weaker, not stronger. The book opens with Deborah St. James angsting over her inability to have a child. She takes refuge from the rain in a museum, and contemplates a Da Vinci Madonna and child. A man, who turns out to be a vicar, sits down next to her and mutters it's "missing Joseph." That it seems so few pictures of the infant Jesus include his father. Deborah finds a connection with the man, and she and her husband Simon go up to visit him in Lancashire--only to find he's died in what's been ruled to be an accidental poisoning. As you might be able to tell from that title, the relationship between parent and child is key in both the mystery and the arc of the recurring characters. How it features in this mystery though defines far-fetched and overwrought. In fact no one in this novel acts in any way I find credible. There are two things that just kill this for me though. One is the almost complete absence of Havers. I really couldn't care less about the St Jameses or their marriage. I find Deborah whiny and annoying. What I loved in the first Lynley novel was the acerbic, working class Havers, and how she played off the smoothly aristocratic Lynley. So my favorite character is practically absent, staying down in London, while my least favorite character is far too much to the fore. Also, yes, though I like George's writing and tend to think she's more than just a decent genre writer, I do want to read a good mystery, and like the preceding book, For the Sake of Helena, George cheats, entering into the mind of the murderer in a way that should strike the person off the suspect list. It makes me wary of reading more of George. I will be reading the next book in the series however, and dearly hope there'll be a lot less of the St Jameses, and a lot more of Havers.