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A Great Deliverance [Paperback]

Elizabeth George
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (47 customer reviews)

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Book Description

May 1 1989
To this day, the low, thin wail of an infant can be heard in Keldale's lush green valleys. Three hundred years ago, as legend goes, the frightened Yorkshire villagers smothered a crying babe in Keldale Abbey, where they'd hidden to escape the ravages of Cromwell's raiders.

Now into Keldale's pastoral web of old houses and older secrets comes Scotland Yard Inspector Thomas Lynley, the eighth earl of Asherton. Along with the redoubtable Detective Sergeant Barbara Havers, Lynley has been sent to solve a savage murder that has stunned the peaceful countryside. For fat, unlovely Roberta Teys has been found in her best dress, an axe in her lap, seated in the old stone barn beside her father's headless corpse. Her first and last words were "I did it. And I'm not sorry."

Yet as Lynley and Havers wind their way through Keldale's dark labyrinth of secret scandals and appalling crimes, they uncover a shattering series of revelations that will reverberate through this tranquil English valley—and in their own lives as well.

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From Publishers Weekly

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.
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"Spellbinding...a truly fascinating story that is part psychological suspense and part detective story."—Chicago Sun-Times"Pure entertainment from its insidious beginning to its gripping end."—The Washington Post Book World"Exceptionally assured and impressive...highly entertaining."—Newsweek"Awesome...immediately thrusts the author into P.D. James' dark orbit."—Kirkus Reviews

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic beginning to a fantastic series Dec 6 2002
I had heard about Elizabeth George, but had never read anything by her until one day at the bookstore when I was looking for something new. I picked this one since it was the first in the series, and thought I would give it a go.
I had not finished half of it before I was on the phone with my husband at work, demanding that he go to the bookstore ASAP and buy me the next two, because there was no way I could finish this and have to wait to read more.
Beautifully written, suspensful, and utterly absorbing. Elizabeth George is amazing!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Essential Reading for Lynley and Havers Fans July 15 2006
By Donald Mitchell #1 HALL OF FAME TOP 50 REVIEWER
"Who knows what darkness lies in the hearts of men? Only the Shadow knows." That opening from the old radio show came to mind as I reread this book about the almost unspeakable evils that people do to one another.

First published in 1988, A Great Deliverance is the first book in the distinguished series featuring Inspector Thomas Lynley and Detective Sergeant Barbara Havers, the English detective duo who have delighted so many readers since then. I first read this book many years ago and was impressed at the time by the careful character development. Little did I know that that character development would make the subsequent series such a remarkable delight. Rereading the book now, I must say that I don't remember a first book in a detective series that did nearly so much to establish the backgrounds, thought processes, influences and loves of the lead characters. I'm much more impressed than the first time.

As the story opens, Father Hart is on a pilgrimage to Scotland Yard to help heal a rift among those who have been investigating the beheading of a local farmer. While most detectives would feel that finding the farmer's daughter, Roberta Teys, next to the body as she confesses that she's guilty would be enough evidence, Father Hart believes that Roberta is innocent. Thus, Scotland Yard enters the case. Havers is dispatched to haul Lynley back from a wedding he's attending, and the reader is soon enmeshed in "what might have been" thoughts concerning the lives of both Lynley and Havers.

Lynley is the golden boy, the eighth earl of Asherton, who doesn't even need to work . . . but who sees work as his obligation. Havers is a loose cannon of emotions, instincts and prejudice . . . but who's brilliantly and doggedly determined to find the answers to any crime.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Banquet of words Jan. 31 2004
It's been nearly five years since I read this and it still sits vividly in my mind. If the word 'epic' ever applied to a mystery novel, this author wrote it. Ms. George's ability to make the reader see the world from the viewpoints of her creations surprises and delights. Her characters are wonderful, deep and broad and full of personality as well as personality quirks. Even the ones to whom you may feel antipathy in the beginning win you over in the end. The book combines the 'cosy' and hard-edged mystery styles beautifully. The descriptions are delicious, almost enough to make you lick the pages. Treat yourself to this one and to her succeeding novels starring Lynley and Havers. Eminently satisfying.
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5.0 out of 5 stars No Grappling in An Elsinore Grave Sept. 2 2002
It's murder most foul as in the best it is - the victim is decapitated. It is most foul, because it is strange, and unnatural - the victim's teenage daughter committed the hideous crime. To attend to this case, the Yard has paired one highbrow Detective Inspector and Earl, Thomas Lynley, and one lowbrow working class frump, Detective Sergeant Barbara Havers. Each of them, has to spin away from his and her narrow orbit and enter into the wider magnetic field of this homicide investigation.
As the story unfolds, no linear motive for the homicide which the detectives can fathom. The case becomes much more diverse and complex with no single chronological framework. Instead, the polarizing pair have made a mosaic of unrelated events linking the case to another death happened years earlier in Yorkshire's Keldale Valley, and an attempted suicide in London shortly after the homicide.
The thematic thread insinuates throughout George's tapestry, "A Great Deliverance", is taken from Judge 18:24* of the Bible (KJV). Underpinning this passage is that in as much as a formal religion or behavior, which has no foundation in truth and practice, is idolatry, and will lead to misfortune and obloquy. As straw man is indespensible in a murder-mystery, George has the self-made idols of every consequential character, including Lynley and Havers, broken under the hammer of truth, biblical or emperical.
Classical painting, literature, elocution, architecture, and music are the natural in not acquired writing tools for Elizabeth George. "A Great Deliverance" is an artistic manifestation of her whole self. Students of these disciplines will appreciate that much more the artistic gems George has interlaced in the mise-en-scÃnes. And yes, the author even has a stylish reference to the film 'Casablanca' in this cozy mystery.
Here's looking at you, Elizabeth George. There is no grappling in an Elsinore grave for this reader.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Good, but doesn't stand out April 30 2002
actually, this is probably the worst in the series, to be blunt.
It's admittedly very well written, and a good mystery, with an unexpected solution (of the "you think you knew it, but you really didn't", variety) But the book is a little short, i felt. I know i am probably comparing this to her later, longer books. But having read them, and also having read this, this book stands out as feeling a little underdeveloped compared to her others. the plot could be a bit more complex, and the character development is of good average standard, but it isn't really anywhere near that of her later books. In comparison, this pales with many of her others.
The mystery is a nice one, the setting also well evoked, and the main detective are well drawn (but are probably about the only two ppl who are). The depictions of english life seem a bit...old-fashioned, but seeing as she is american, that is forgiveable.
All in all, this is a good novel by anyone's standards, but by Elizabeth George's, its not quite as worthy as some of her others. COudl do with being longer, but still comes reccomended as the start to a great series, and as such, you should give it a go.
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Most recent customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Deceiving...
My expectations were maybe a bit high... anyway, they've not been fulfilled. The intrigue was straight-forward and the motive of the murder without imagination.
Published on Aug. 18 2008 by J. Beauchesne
5.0 out of 5 stars utterly absorbing
This is a plot thick book with plenty of fascinating characters. It is a good idea to read this novel first to get a solid background of the characters. Read more
Published on Aug. 2 2007 by Toni Osborne
5.0 out of 5 stars An enthralling book
There's not much mystery about who committed the crime in this book; the big mystery is why, and the ending does not disappoint. Read more
Published on Aug. 21 2005
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Character-Driven Mystery
This novel, the first in the 'Inspector Lynley' mystery series, is complex in both plot and character. Read more
Published on Nov. 2 2003 by Tracy Davis
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful Beginning!
The first in this superb mystery series, A Great Deliverance introduces most of the major characters that inhabit Elizabeth George's later books. Read more
Published on March 4 2003 by PurpleKhads
5.0 out of 5 stars all books in order
Just a short comment on this books. It is great. Read the others comments for more details. I just want write down the order of the Lynley and Havers series. Read more
Published on Nov. 14 2002 by Lise Lotte
5.0 out of 5 stars Don't Axe
The investigation of a grisly murder in a small village in Northern England provides a window on a twisty and bumpy trip through the hopes, fears, guilt and ambition of the... Read more
Published on Oct. 7 2002 by Thomas A. Liese
5.0 out of 5 stars Dark and disturbing
As the first book in the series, A Great Deliverance is a marvellous introduction to Thomas Lynley and Babara Havers. Read more
Published on June 26 2002
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent!
I was very impressed with this novel. The ironically unlikely but ultimately well-suited detective team of Thomas Lynley, aristrocratic to the core, and Barbara Havers, from a... Read more
Published on June 3 2002 by Martha E. Nelson
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