5.1.14

JUST ONE EVIL ACT, by Elizabeth George

18?/series. London-based Detective Inspector Thomas Lynley and his unpredictable sidekick DS Barbara Havers are at it again in this gigantic, 719-page epic. I suspect the extravagantly talented Ms. George has a touch of Gabaldon-envy, and is trying for the doorstop size Gabaldon so effortlessly attains. The tale centers around Barbara Havers' neighbor, handsome, courtly Professor Taymullah Azhar and his delightful nine year-old daughter Hadiyyah, both of whom Havers loves dearly. Perhaps too dearly? Click for more, but never a spoiler...
Havers, in constant trouble with her acting superintendent Isabelle Ardery (in part due to Haver's complete lack of fashion sense but also for her deportment and attitude), has been gussied up by the suddenly-reappearing estranged mother of Hadiyyah. When mother and child vanish, Havers takes the professor to a private detective to track them. A fly in the plot's ointment throughout the book is Azhar's lack of documentation that he is indeed the father of the adorable little girl, for whom he would do anything to keep from harm.
Here's what I think: whether or not you want to write an enormous book, you should consider your readers. If you can tell a story in 500 pages, you should do it. And you should not conduct the Italian part of the story in large chunks of untranslated Italian-language dialogue. Fine, you speak Italian, but please don't rub my nose in it every time we go to Lucca.
I admire Ms. George, and generally I love her books. I even waded through What Happened Before He Shot Her, which was depressing in the extreme, but which helped redeem her with her outraged readers after George killed off Lynley's wonderful wife. But, honestly, this monster could have been 150 or more pages shorter with no diminution of tension, character development, pacing or setting. And the overload of vernacular Italian was almost punishing. So it's a 3.5. Sorry. You probably won't agree but that's okay,.