Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Reviews: The Best Defense by Kate Wilhelm and Careless in Red by Elizabeth George

The Best Defense by Kate WilhelmThe Best Defense by Kate Wilhelm is the second of her Barbara Holloway mysteries and in a word it is brilliant. Holloway is an attorney in Eugene, Oregon, who with some reluctance takes on the case of “Baby Killer” Kinnerman, a woman accused of murdering her young daughter. The case looks hopeless—Barbara’s client has already been tried and convicted by the press. Although grieving herself, Barbara rises to the occasion, and watching her slowly build her case makes for gripping reading. This was a reread for me, but I didn’t remember what happened at all and enjoyed The Best Defense just as much the second time around. Barbara is a great character: she is a strong and intelligent woman who is passionate about justice. This is Wilhelm at her best. If you enjoy courtroom dramas, you won’t want to miss this one.

Careless in Red by Elizabeth GeorgeIt’s hard to review Careless in Red by Elizabeth George without spoiling any of the previous books in her Lynley/Havers series (this is book 15), but I will do my best (which means I won’t tell you much about the plot).

Devastated by personal tragedy, Detective Superintendent Thomas Lynley has been walking along the Cornish coastline for 43 days when he comes across the body of a young man who has fallen to his death. As the local police are short-staffed, Lynley reluctantly becomes involved in the investigation.

George’s strength is her ability to get into her characters’ heads, telling the story from multiple points of view yet still keeping her readers in the dark as to who did it and why. However, I often feel like her endings are a bit anti-climatic, perhaps because she focuses on so many characters and then inevitably drops them at the end to unravel the mystery. Careless in Red is no exception on both counts—although for the first time I found the characters a bit hard to keep track of at the beginning (which I attributed in part to their odd names). Because I was so deeply disappointed with With No One as Witness (book 13)—and skipped the next book, What Came Before He Shot Her—I was glad this book returned to more familiar ground. If you’re still reading this series, I definitely think this one is worth it—it satisfied my George craving and hopefully the next one will be even better. However, if you haven’t read any of her books yet or are reading them out of order, I’d recommend reading books 1-12 before any of the more recent ones.

Other review of The Best Defense (contains spoiler of first book): Jandy’s Reading Room

Other reviews of Careless in Red (all contain spoilers of earlier books):

A Work in ProgressEurocrimeMysteries in ParadisePetronaReactions to Reading


  1. I really do want to try one of Elizabeth George's books because I keep hearing she does mysteries so well.

  2. I highly recommend her books, Kathy -- you just don't want to start with this one! (I actually read them out of order in the beginning, but then reread the first six in the right order. Reading them chronologically definitely makes more sense.)

  3. Avis, I like your new blog look as well. I was thinking about this one also, but wanted to keep my SEA theme :) Your's looks great!

  4. Thanks for this post!

    Bill ;-)

    Author of "Back to the Homeplace"
    and "13 Ways to Tell Your Ancestor Stories"

  5. I really need to read something by Elizabeth George..I have a couple of her books in my TBR mountain...your review has convinced me to read them sooner rather than later!

  6. I don't believe I've even heard of either of these authors before.

  7. what a coincidence, jst got careless in red on audiobook from the library yesterday

  8. I'd love to read the one set in Eugene, Oregon...my parents used to live there!

  9. The Best Defense caught my eye becuase I went to college in Eugene!

  10. I've read the first two of her books and while I didn't like the first one much, I liked the second one much better, and so plan on continuing to read them. I'm glad you enjoyed this latest one! It's good to know there are so many good books of hers to look forward to.

  11. I loved all the books I read by Elizabeth George. The newest book I havent read it as yet but hopefully the library will get it soon.

  12. I'm hoping to finish Careless in Red this weekend. It's been ages since I've read a book by Elizabeth George as I skipped What Came Before.. I am enjoying this, but her mysteries have gotten quite long and with lots of characters as you say. I had completely forgotten one that was introduced at the beginning and not mentioned again until 150 pages from the end (where I am now). Still, I'm fascinating by the setting and the characters are very interesting--I am not sure who is the culprit so am looking forward to seeing how she wraps things up.

  13. Thanks, Diane! I'm really glad you kept your sea theme!

    Thanks for commenting, Bill!

    Ooh, I hope you enjoy them, Wendy. And I would recommend Wilhelm's books even more...

    Jen, George is quite well known in mystery circles, but for some reason Wilhelm is not (she's better known as a SF writer).

    Jenny, I hope you enjoyed it! (I'm figuring you've probably finished it by now.)

    Kathleen and Jenners, I'd love to know if either of you would recognize Eugene from Wilhelm's descriptions!

    Dorothy, I'm glad to hear you enjoyed George's second one more. They are definitely a specific mood, but for the most part I've loved them all.

    Mystica, I'm really looking forward to George's latest one too!

    Danielle, I've linked to your review! I don't remember the character you mentioned, but I did find myself having trouble keeping the characters apart in this book, which doesn't usually happen with George's books. (I thought it might have something to do with their weird-to-me names...)

    I apologize, everyone, for taking so long to reply to your comments!