ME, MINE, MYSELF AND I
Elena Weaver is dead, waylaid while on her pre-dawn run, smashed in the face with the ubiquitous blunt object, strangled with the tie from her hood and buried in a leaf pile by the river. Within three days of her murder and because of it, eight more people will be dead, in body or in soul. But four others will be saved, particularly in soul, including our Lynley, Havers and Lady Helen.
Elena was 20 years old at the time of her death. A second-year student, she was studying English at Cambridge University where her father is an eminent history professor on the very short list for a distinguished, coveted and lifetime Chair in his department. And it is only because of her father’s stature at Cambridge that Elena was still a student there.
Not only had her course work been sub-standard, her personal behavior had been more than questionable. So rather than dismiss her, in deference to her father, the university ordered an “action plan” implemented with multiple tutors and mandatory participation in several student unions. Her grades improved but her acting-out behavior simply went underground and essentially became the beginning of her end.
As with most catastrophes, the debacle leading up to and following Elena’s murder did not just happen overnight. It actually began twenty years earlier when Elena was born deaf to a set of parents who were not prepared to raise a deaf child. And they didn’t want a deaf child. They wanted a normal child, so they refused to allow her to learn sign language, forcing her to read lips and speak.
Fast forward five years to when the parents, in a loveless marriage from the first days, divorce, the father leaving in the middle of the night without so much as a hug for Elena, let alone a parting word. Fast forward another five years to the remarriage of the father and his attempt to reconcile with the child, not understanding the degree and depth to which his ex-wife has fueled Elena’s sense of abandonment and poisoned the child with her own hate.
Now, fast forward once again to the present, where Elena has been essentially forced by finances to attend her father’s school. Badgered to spend weekends at her father’s up-scale home, pressured into attending academic functions with her father, coerced into having virtually 24-hour supervision by tutors, she is even forced to do her daily running with her stepmother. And it is all for her safety and all in the name of love, so sayeth her father.
Elena was tired of being forced to be someone that she did not want to be and, in reality, truly could never be. She was deaf and no amount of lip reading or speech therapy or wanting her to be “normal” could or would ever change that fact. Childhood abandonment turned into adolescent hate, which turned into a young adult’s unwavering need to exact revenge against the father who had never once asked her what she wanted or what she needed.
So, honed into a sociopath from birth, Elena set in motion a long-term plan for revenge. She just didn’t expect that her plot would culminate in her death, rather than in her satisfaction. Of course, the immaturity and inexperience of youth and its attendant self-absorption rarely allows for the idea that someone else may be driven to play the same game, let alone be better at it.
While a murder has occurred and a murderer must be found, this is not totally a murder mystery. This is a psychological thriller based on the concepts of love, need and want. This is a story that pits selfishness against selflessness and against partnership.
This is a story about what a person wants and the actions he or she will take, the words he or she will say, to get what is wanted. It is a story about having no equal regard – consciously or unconsciously – for what another person wants or needs. It is a story of soul-level destruction and redemption. And this is a story where love, hate and revenge are only the outward ramifications of the fundamental need to take care of me, mine, myself and I.
Elizabeth George has produced an excellent literary mystery in this fifth entry to her Inspector Lynley series. It is a long book, 442 pages in the mass-market paperback version. And those pages are filled with a small typeface and lines spaced tightly together. George uses college-level vocabulary and a unique sentence structure so the read is made longer by the need to sometimes consult a dictionary or to re-read for clarity.
But, in the end, the unusual construct makes the storyline that much more intense. While the investigation by Lynley and Havers oft times seems slow and subdued and even appears to take second place to the various psychological subplots, this reader did not want to put the book down until the identify of the murderer was revealed. I simply could not let go until I knew exactly who had opened such an emotionally nasty and particularly heinous Pandora’s Box.
Cover Art From Goodreads