Just One Evil Act

‘Just One Evil Act’ Review

I’ve been a fan of Elizabeth George for nearly twenty years. I first discovered her books while I was working in downtown Pittsburgh in the late ’90s. On my lunch break, I was browsing the mystery section at Barnes & Noble, looking for my next mystery book, when an employee recommended A Great Deliverance. I tore through the rest of the books in that series that were available at the time.

Over the years, Thomas Lynley’s story has meandered far from its center. Although I felt Lynley’s story made more sense in this book than it has in the last few, it served very little purpose, other than distracting the reader from the confusing main storyline.

Just One Evil Act was horrible, just horrible. I only finished it out of morbid curiosity.

Just before I began reading Just One Evil Act, I read someone’s comment on Goodreads.com that said the person didn’t believe Elizabeth George really wrote this book. I agree. Regardless of the meandering story, the actual writing was not up to the prose I have become used to reading from Elizabeth George. My first tip-off was that I didn’t need to pull out my dictionary once; her writing typically teaches me at least five new vocabulary words. Normally, I also come away feeling like I have had a glimpse of a character’s inner life that somehow illuminates human emotions and behaviors in a way that makes me feel wiser. Not this time! Either the publisher hired a ghost writer for this volume, or Ms. George polished off several boxes of wine while she was writing.

The crimes that were committed in Just One Evil Act didn’t make sense (the title doesn’t even makes sense because there were two evil acts!); they were not plausible. Previous crimes in previous books in this series have been dramatic, and even macabre, but still plausible. Why couldn’t the crime have been “ripped from the headlines” like in the past, rather than depending on recurring characters to go against their own nature? A stronger editor was sorely needed to craft a much better book out of this murky story.

Plus, Barbara Havers, one of my favorite Elizabeth George characters, was a caricature of the former, well-written character. It was as if the author kept a copy of Knickers in a Twist nearby, thumbing through it randomly, then dropping phrases into Havers’ dialogue with a heavy hand.

Perhaps the problem with this book is that Elizabeth George has been focusing more on the young adult series she has been writing. I enjoyed The Edge of Nowhere and I am looking forward to the second book, The Edge of the Water. Hopefully Elizabeth George’s prodigious talent will be on display in those books, because it certainly was lacking in this one.

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  1. Brienne

    After reading this review, I was a little surprised to see that you gave the book 3 stars on Goodreads.

  2. Good point! I tend to be generous on stars. I also tend to be loyal to authors. Old habits are hard to break.

  3. Nicky

    I am not quite sure what to make of this book. I agree that a stronger editor is needed. Or a decent BritPicker.

    She is usually meticulous in researching details of British life but in this book and the one before that, I found myself rather disappointed with easily researched errors that even led to making an important plot point completely unrealistic for a UK setting.

    In Just One Evil Act, people keep going on about the possibility that fake ID cards have been obtained. British ID cards? No such animal.

    Neither do we have “disposable” mobile phones to my knowledge.

  4. Denise

    After reading all of Elizabeth Georges books over the years,I must say how dreadful and disappointing Just One Evil Act is. Absolute rubbish,poorly written,boring. Mills and Boon could do better. The only genuine point about the novel is the Authors Name . Give it a miss. I’m half way through, not sure if I can persevere,for old time sake!!

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