"Missing Joseph," like Elizabeth George's previous Lynley mysteries, has both strengths and weaknesses. On the one hand, her novels are engrossing, the plots are densely written, well thought out and very contemporary. On the other hand, her cast of characters which appear in each book, (Lynley & Havers - the professionals from Scotland Yard - assisted by "amateurs" St. James & Lady Helen) are neither particularly appealing nor very believable. "Missing Joseph" is less melodramatic than some of the earlier novels, but there is still an overwrought feel to it, part of which is due to the introspective nature of nearly all of the characters and their over-complicated relationships. There is also a depressing atmosphere in each of George's novels, as if a writer has to be depressing in order to be serious. Ruth Rendell, who I think Elizabeth George has studied very closely, is a much better writer, but even gloomier. Finally, there is also an almost gratuitously trashy element in each of Ms. George's novels - her sexual scenes are written in a very tacky way and she inserts occasional obscenities in the most surprising and inappropriate places. Some scenes read like they were lifted from a bad romance novel. Her word choices also sometimes border on the absurd ("turgent" is a good example from early on in "Missing Joseph"). Why force the reader to the dictionary, especially when you need an unabridged edition (which most people don't own) for a definition? There are too many other irritating mannerisms in Elizabeth George's writing to point out here (e.g. too often her British settings and language do not sound genuine, as if she is overdoing it). Despite these complaints, if you like excess handwringing, which I admit I occasionally do, then a Elizabeth George novel is a good place to find it.