Something to Hide by Elizabeth George

Reviewed by Ian Lipke

I received a present this week, an unexpected delight, a treasure – the latest book by Elizabeth George, the undisputed queen of crime fiction. The volume I received was Something to Hide, an Inspector Peter Lynley / Sergeant Barbara Havers story that is labelled No 21 in this sequence. Similar to its forebears only in the presence of key personnel, this novel will tax the brain every bit as much as earlier volumes do. Each new book Elizabeth George publishes is an ‘original’ – in complicated plot, in richness of a host of characters, in criminal happening and its redressal – this book is no exception.

Tani Bankole lives in Northeast London, the son of Nigerian parents. His father dominates and enforces his will with his fists or whatever weapon is to hand. Tani’s parents are overheard plotting to have his little sister Simi circumcised, the task to be performed by a woman from the Nigerian community. Tani sets out to save his sister from ‘the cut’. Meanwhile Lynley, Havers, and Sergeant Winston Nkata are attempting to solve the murder of an undercover police officer.

Trying to solve the murder uncovers complex layers of deceit in marriages, ambition, untruths and the slander of both innocent and guilty parties alike. The woman who died, remains at the centre of this fine story. She, and later Lynley, became aware of a conspiracy to commit a series of crimes that, while commonplace in parts of Africa, are illegal in the UK. Lord Peter Lynley has shed his inspectorial rank to become Acting Detective Chief Superintendent, now encounters a world remote from his experience. Born into money, he receives credit for making a success of a career that includes intellectual endeavour as well as the ugly side of man’s activities. But we are ever conscious of the fact that he has friends among senior politicians and policymakers. He has little patience for senior administrators who are bent on preserving a positive image even if the facts are sacrificed in maintaining that image.

Lynley is no paragon. Much of his time in the book relates to personal issues between himself and his wife, who has significant concerns of her own.  Another senior policeman Detective Chief Superintendent Mark Phinney is bent on sorting out which woman he wants to be with and spreads his favours around. If there is any clutter in the novel, it is the presence of this character whose inclusion detracts rather than contributes. Fortunately, the author has placed the driving force of the plot squarely on the shoulders of Lynley’s crew.

Sergeant Winston Nkata is a black officer who offers good advice, reads important members of the community with accuracy and has the ability to recognise clues relevant to the cases he is working. The team achieves much of its successes because his well-presented and good-mannered figure inspires confidence in the street people who know the secrets of the back alleys and the doings of their neighbours and friends.

Sergeant Barbara Havers has little difficulty in solving crime through the information she extracts from regular people. In the movie sequence, The Lynley Mysteries, she is careless of her appearance. In Something to Hide she is a slob. Her clothes are ill-fitting, her uniform wrinkled and stained. Her diet is a disgrace, and much of what she eats is dumped into the passenger area of her car. Yet her rude, insensitive manner produces results. While there is a continued campaign among senior police to have her transferred, she is protected by Lynley who finds her services useful. In this book, she receives the unwelcome attentions of the office manager, a Mrs Bouquet-type figure, who insists that Havers find a boyfriend. These episodes, I found, distracting and petty.

The book is distinguished by a plethora of characters. Each could reasonably have been the murderer. Sexy Rosie, the dead woman’s sister, the roue who loved the dead woman but made her sister pregnant, the Bankole family of four well defined individuals who hold a remarkable dominance in the book, and the irrepressible Sophia, friend and lover of Tani.

Something to hide? Oh yes! on several levels but you’ll have to find that something yourself.

I enjoyed this book very much.

Something to Hide

By Elizabeth George

(2022)

Hodder & Stoughton

ISBN: 978-1-529-34655-8

$ 32.99. 632 pp

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