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I, Richard [Paperback]

Elizabeth George
2.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
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Book Description

July 29 2003
Hailed by The New York Times as “a master of the British mystery,” award-winning author Elizabeth George is one of our most distinguished writers, cherished by readers on both sides of the Atlantic. Her first collection of short stories is an extraordinary offering that deftly explores the dark side of everyday people—and the lengths to which they will go to get what they want most....

In these five tantalizing and original tales, George plumbs the depths of human nature—and human weakness—as only she can. From the chilling tale of a marriage built on an appalling set of lies that only death can reveal, to the final, title story about a penniless schoolteacher whose ambition turns murderous, I, Richard is filled with page-turning drama, danger, and unmatched suspense.

Whether the setting is urban or suburban, affluent or middle class, no one is safe from menace. Thanks to Inspector Thomas Lynley, a squabbling group of Anglophiles discovers a killer in its midst…But little help is on hand when a picture-perfect town is shattered by an eccentric new resident’s horrifying pet project.... And when a wealthy husband is haunted by suspicions about his much-younger wife, it becomes clear that a man’s imagination can be his own worst enemy...

Ironic, revealing, and undeniably entertaining, this imaginative collection proves once again why Elizabeth George is one of today’s best-loved authors. I, Richard belongs in the library of each and every mystery devotee.

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From Publishers Weekly

In her first story collection, eminent British author George (A Traitor to Memory) presents five nimbly written and gripping tales, each with a stunning conclusion. "Exposure" concerns declining sexual prowess, as gossipy architecture students speculate about Polly Simpson, who is suspiciously friendly with elderly men touring Abinger Manor, where one oldster dies mysteriously just as some historic silverware is stolen. In "The Surprise of His Life," high-powered CEO Douglas Armstrong, obsessively jealous and mistrustful of his young wife, learns too late that she's planning an astonishing final surprise for both him and the reader. Similarly, a young widow in "Remember I'll Always Love You" is horrified to discover the secret double life led by her late husband, purportedly a sales director for a biotech firm, but in reality something far more sinister. A melancholy tone pervades "Good Fences Aren't Always Enough," in which an elderly Russian refugee, Anfisa, scandalizes her socially conscious neighbors in fashionable East Wingate with her determination to live life her own way. In the title story, ambitious and murderous schoolteacher Malcolm Cousins is determined to perpetuate the reputation of his hero, Richard III, while also absconding with the wife and substantial legacy of a former school chum. A brooding, gloomy dust jacket suggests gothic themes, but the tales are thoroughly modern in setting and subject.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

George, author of the deservedly popular Thomas Lynley/Barbara Havers mysteries, tries her hand at the short story form with this collection of five tales. Each story is introduced by George, who describes how she came to write it. "Exposure" is a condensed version of a Thomas Lynley mystery, while both "The Surprise of His Life" and the title story mix horror with humor to portray the desperate acts of men at mid-life, ending with a wittily vindictive twist that will appeal to fans of Ruth Rendell. "Good Fences Aren't Always Enough" probes a clash between a fiercely family-oriented young mother and her new neighbor, an aging, eccentric Russian immigrant. In "Remember I'll Always Love You," Charlie Lawton, a grieving young widow, sets out to find her deceased husband's estranged family and discovers a deadly secret. George, whose last novel, A Traitor to Memory, ran to nearly 800 pages, excels at writing in a more condensed way. Satisfying and memorable, this collection is highly recommended for most public libraries.
--Jane la Plante, Minot State Univ. Lib., ND
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A Powerful Disappointment April 6 2003
Unlike her other books, this one seems to be an experiment that didn't work.
I'm a diehard Elizabeth George fan. This particular book disappointed me in many ways. I could only complete one of the five stories, and can't recommend it to anyone.
Will this stop me from buying her next novel? Not at all. She's a master in her field.
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1.0 out of 5 stars About the audiobook... Dec 22 2003
By A Customer
Format:Audio Cassette
I'm a Road Warrior, spending many hours behind the wheel of my car which I special-ordered with both a cassette tape deck and a CD-player so that I could have a larger selection of audio-books. I'm surprised that the other reviewers did not mention the appalling narration of "I, Richard" (audio-book version) by Derek Jacobi. Mr. Jacobi is a fine actor, based on my experience with "Masterpiece Theatre", but his impression of an American accent sounds like Attila the Hun on helium. Since most of the short stories in this collection are set in America and have characters who are young women, Mr. Jacobi's unintentionally hilarious accent made me wish I could award this recording "negative stars".
2nd fatal mistake of this production - the "Interview with the Author" was in fact conducted by a young American woman (who managed to sound worse than Jacobi's bad impression of a young American woman) mechanically reading trite questions with no real enthusiasm or interaction with the author. Ms. George has a pleasant voice and is thoughtful and articulate, and I very much wanted to ask her a question: "Ms. George, your introduction to one of the stories (the first one, I think) indicated that in an earlier version you killed off the wrong character. Who did you kill, and why?" I mean, what's the point of an interview that doesn't rise above cliches?
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3.0 out of 5 stars Better than I expected! Sept. 4 2003
Unlike many of the readers, I found this book fun, ... These stories were mercifully short, and though the surprise endings might strike some readers as tacky, I thought they were fun. I confess I had to reread one story in part to understand the killer's motive, but despite that, there were more thrills here than I expected to find. George's introductions could have been shorter and more artful, but let's face it, she's not the mystery short story artist Ruth Rendell is, so that's not surprising.
Lev Raphael ...
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4.0 out of 5 stars What gives? Aug. 30 2003
I don't understand all of the negative reviews for this book. It is what it is - a collection of dark, short-story mysteries. All of the stories are pretty good. I have enjoyed it. George is better at writing novels but this collection stands on it's own.
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5.0 out of 5 stars As always, Elizabeth George doesn't disappoint! June 8 2003
By A Customer
I'm so glad I followed my heart and not some of these reviews and bought the book! I've enjoyed each and every short story and the beginning of each story starts off with why Elizabeth George came to write it or what inspired her to do so. Each story made me curious as to where it was leading me. Granted, one can't compare this with the novels that E. George has written especially if one follows the Lynley series, but each story stands on it's own and left me satisfied at the end of each short story. I've read all of her books and this one was one of my favorites! Well done!
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3.0 out of 5 stars SOMETIMES SHORT JUST ISN'T LONG ENOUGH March 30 2003
I, like so many of the other reviewers here, came to this book of short stories after having become a fan of Elizabeth George's Thomas Lynley/Barbara Havers novels. It was probably because of those novels that I expected so much from Ms. George's short stories. I wonder if I might have liked these stories better had I approached them without these expectations. I'm afraid that I'm not introspective enough to answer this largely rhetorical question.
I do think that the major problem is that her writing style is one that utilizes a leisurely approach to the development of the personalities of her creations, and what makes them tick. The same can be said of her development of plot line. The limitations of the short story format just don't allow the time for this sort of build-up, thus her short story characters tend to be one dimensional types rather than her usually fully developed real people.
The middle story in this five story book, "Good Fences Aren't Always Enough," is the primary example of these one dimensional characters. Even their neighborhood, Napier Lane, is unidimensional. It seems to exist only to win the town's periodic "Perfect Neighborhood" designation.
As to its inhabitants:
Willow is the well intentioned wife and mother type.
Scott is the distracted husband type.
Leslie is the soap opera watching couch potato type.
Ava is the transplanted Southern Belle type.
Beau is the obedient henpecked husband type.
You get the picture - not a one of them have any other dimensions to their personalities.
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I'm a great Elizabeth George fan. She is one of a small number of writers whose works I buy in hardbound.
But I'm afraid she's no short story writer.
The collection gets off to a bad start with "Exposure," which ought to be interesting to George fans because of the presence of detective Thomas Lynley. But the story is a mess. I don't understand the perpetrator's motive. The "puzzle" aspect is poorly presented--we're not really given enough of a clue to solve the puzzle ourselves. The perpetrator actually commits two crimes--and I don't believe that the methods used to commit either crime would have worked in real life.
Three of the the stories feature "O. Henry endings," none of which, in my opinion, quite come off.
The title story, "I, Richard" intertwines a sort of pseudo-mystery story concerning the truth about Richard III and the Princes in the Tower, with a modern-day murder story. Unfortunately, to someone who isn't a "Ricardian," the Richard III part is muddled and boring--and the framing murder mystery is unbelievable, except for the ending--which is all too predictable.
Similar motifs recur in several of the stories--giving a slightly stale or repetitious flavor to the collection.
Perhaps the best is "Good Fences Aren't Always Enough," which comes close to being sad and touching. But all of them, even this one, read more like extended jokes than like real stories. The characters in them are paper cutouts. The author's attitude toward her characters is remote and almost contemptuous. She never seems involved with them, nor do we. The stories succeed neither as slices of life nor as clever little clockwork gadgets.
And, incidentally, the book is a rather poor value. There are only five stories in it.
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