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A Traitor to Memory    by Elizabeth George order for
Traitor to Memory
by Elizabeth George
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Bantam, 2002 (2001)
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* * *   Reviewed by G. Hall

With her latest book, Elizabeth George demonstrates yet again that she and P. D. James are the pre-eminent writers of British mysteries. Their novels are always well-plotted with numerous characters entwined in an interesting fashion, both pyschological and emotional. The George team of police detectives consists of Detective Inspector Thomas Lynley and Detective Constable Barbara Havers. Simon St. James and Lynley's wife Helen often assist the police with their forensic expertise. Although a reader can start the series with this eleventh book, they will certainly want to eventually read the earlier entries.

The most recent novels, Deception on His Mind and In Pursuit of the Proper Sinner, focused heavily on Barbara Havers much to the delight of long term George fans. Barbara is a true original - unashamedly working class, independent, unfashionable and outspoken. The relationship between Barbara and the aristocratic Lynley is one of the best features of the series. Unfortunately, A Traitor to Memory does not focus on Barbara as much, although she is still very involved in solving the crime. Instead the emphasis shifts towards Detective Constable Winston Nkata who has the potential to develop into an intriguing character.

A Traitor to Memory is over seven hundred pages long and completely engrossing. It revolves around Gideon Davies, a famous violinist in his late twenties. Gideon becomes incapacitated by nerves and unable to continue playing professionally. Through fascinating therapy sessions he explores his childhood (in a large household including both family members and assorted nannies and tutors) in order to understand the cause of his problem. As the book opens, one of the members of that long ago household is murdered. Subsequently there are several attempted murders. Lynley's team is called in to investigate and realizes that everything appears to be linked to Gideon's childhood and the mysterious death of his younger sister.

As the tale progresses, Gideon's therapy sessions continue in parallel to the police detective work as they both try to solve the mystery of what occurred twenty years before and how it has affected the present day. George excels in depicting memorable characters, both her continuing cast and new actors. The reader can really picture each individual and remember where she or he fits into the complicated story. The resolution of the mystery is extremely satisfying, and readers should read to the very last word to catch the surprising denouement.

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