Okay. So I should say straight out that I picked up this book expecting not to like it very much. For some reason the cover appealed to me (and yes, I regularly judge books by their covers – why not, I say? A lot of thought and effort has gone into them), but I haven’t enjoyed crime novels much in the past. I will also admit I have been a tad obsessed with the TV series Broadchurch lately. It turns out I love slowly simmering, drawn-out story development (which was a bit of a revelation), not to mention all those moody camera shots of the Devonshire coast. Of course, being me, I went looking for the book equivalent in order to fuel this current obsession. I thought A Banquet of Consequences might be it, and for the most part I was right.
A Banquet of Consequences is definitely a slow burn. I’m used to those hectic-paced, blockbuster crime books like Gone Girl, The Girl on the Train and Before I Go to Sleep, so this kind of gradually unfolding psychological plot was a really new format for me.
The novel is about a suicide and later a poisoning, and the way in which they impact the families central to the story. You know the events are connected somehow, and the miniscule links unfurl slowly, oh so slowly, before reaching an end that is somewhat anticlimactic after all that context. It doesn’t really matter though because the enjoyment is in the beauty of the writing. Elizabeth George’s depictions of the English countryside left me doing a little happy dance in my head, and trying to find an excuse to fly and visit these richly-portrayed areas as soon as possible.
I have to admit though, I really struggled to keep track of all the characters. There were just so many and it greatly affected my ability to keep on top of the plot. Caroline, Clare, Rory, Charlie, India, Barbara, Lily, Alastair, Tommy, Sumalee, Francis, Isabelle, Sharon, they just kept coming and coming and coming, and each time there was a change in voice I would be thrown off, thinking ‘what is this person’s story again?’
However, I realised (somewhat embarrassingly) about half way through that this is Elizabeth George’s nineteenth book in a series about the two featured detectives Barbara Havers and Thomas Lynley. Which explains a lot. Loyal George readers would be entirely familiar with some of these characters and so be used to them popping in and out of the story. But I had no idea. I felt like a bit of a dingbat (wait, does anyone even say that anymore?) to tell you the truth.
So, I plan to redeem myself by reading other titles in the series, because there are many implied story lines in this one that could be more fully appreciated through a better understanding of the characters involved. Any suggestions?