Fat, unlovely Roberta Teys is found beside her father's headless corpse, wearing her best dress and with an axe in her lap. Her first words are: 'I did it. And I am not sorry' and she refuses to say more. Inspector Thomas Lynley and DS Barbara Havers are sent by Scotland Yard to solve this particularly gruesome murder. And as they navigate their way around a dark labyrinth of secret scandals and appalling crimes, they uncover a series of shocking revelations that shatter the faÃ§ade of the peaceful Yorkshire village.
In her debut novel, George too often plays to the gallery with characterizations broad enough to border on caricature. The legendharking back to violent events in Cromwell's timethat surrounds local Keldale Abbey pales in comparison to a modern-day crime committed in this quiet corner of Yorkshire, England: Roberta Teys, a silent, obese adolescent, is accused of killing her church-going father with an axe. The detectives sent by Scotland Yard to investigate are a mismatched pair. Inspector Thomas Lynley is smooth, attractive and utterly upper-class; "stubby, sturdy'' detective-sergeant Barbara Havers, conscious of her plain appearance and lower-class origins, considers Lynley a ``sodding little fop.'' Thrown together, they weigh the general conviction in the villagethat Roberta could not possibly have wielded the bloody axeagainst mounting evidence that damns the now catatonic girl. In sifting slowly through the ashes of the past, the detectives find enough horrific skeletons in every closet to lead them to a climax unexpectedly loaded with fire and fury. While Lynley seems rather bland despite emotion roiling beneath the surface, it is Havers' painful secrets and driving rage that encourage one to overlook decidedly uneven passages in this essentially intriguing psychological thriller. 35,000 first printing; $50,000 ad/promo.