A Banquet of Consequences by Elizabeth George
Author: Elizabeth George
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Copyright Year: 2015
Review By: Sandra Nicholson
The suicide of William Goldacre is devastating to those left behind. But what was the cause of his tragedy and how far might the consequences reach? Is there a link between the young man’s leap from a Dorset cliff and an horrific poisoning in Cambridge?
Following various career-threatening misdemeanours, Detective Sergeant Barbara Havers is desperate to redeem herself. So when a past encounter with bestselling feminist writer Clare Abbott and her pushy personal assistant Caroline Goldacre gives her a connection to the Cambridge murder, Barbara begs DI Thomas Linley to let her pursue the crime.
Soon, Lynley finds himself investigating the London end of the ever more darkly disturbing case, while Havers and DS Winston Nkata look behind the peaceful façade of the country life to discover a twisted world of desire and deceit – and no shortage of suspects.
Full of shocks, intensity and suspense from first page to last, A Banquet of Consequences reveals both Lynley and Havers under pressure, and author Elizabeth George writing at the very height of her exceptional powers.
If I were to describe the underlying theme of this novel it would be toxic relationships and the far-reaching harm they can cause.
There are many threads to this narrative and although it is described as ‘A Lynley Novel’ it is Detective Sergeant Barbara Havers, rather than DI Thomas Lynley, who is centre stage on this occasion, from the Met’s perspective. We get a glimpse into Lynley’s fractious relationship with his boss, Detective Superintendent Isabelle Ardery, whom he once had a very short relationship with, his memories of his murdered wife, Helen, and his attempts at forming a new relationship with Daidre. In relation to Havers, we see her trying hard to ‘toe the line’ but not quite getting there, her lack of tact and her continuing inappropriate dress – mainly T-shirts with inappropriate logos on them. The other threads revolve around the lives of the main characters, Clare Abbott, Caroline Goldacre and Rory Statham.
The first part of the narrative describes the breakdown of the relationship between Lily Foster and William Goldacre. William has advised Lily that he can no longer live in London and wants her to move to Dorset with him. However, Lily is building a successful business in London and does not want to move. Caroline Goldacre turns up in London to ‘rescue’ her son and take him home to Dorset. William again manages to move out of home but remains close to his mother in Dorset. He then attempts a reconciliation with Lily by taking her on a camping trip. However, when he returns to the tent with breakfast one morning and finds Lily reading his diary, he runs up to the cliff and jumps to his death. Lily holds Caroline, solely responsible for William’s death, so she moves to Dorset and commences stalking Caroline who takes out an ASBO against her. Lily turns up at the memorial dedication ceremony for William and brings William’s diary with her, which is given to Charlie Goldacre, Williams brother.
Charlie, who is William’s older brother, is also having marital problems and when his wife, India, leaves him and takes up with Nat, again Caroline ‘comes to the rescue’. However, Charlie is a psychotherapist so although manipulated to a certain extent by his mother, he stays in London in the hope of reconciling with his wife.
Havers attends the launch of a controversial book and lines up to get her book signed by the feminist author Clare Abbott and as a consequence meets Clare’s publicist, Rory Statham and personal assistant, Caroline Goldacre. Shortly after this event, Clare travels to Cambridge where she is found dead with a suspected heart attack. Caroline was with Clare in Cambridge, had the adjoining room and states that they had had an argument the night before and therefore, she had locked her adjoining door so Clare couldn’t get in. However, Rory is not convinced that Clare died of a heart attack and asks Havers to re-investigate the death. A second post mortem is conducted and a rare poison is discovered in Clare’s system. When Barbara calls around to tell Rory, she finds Rory on the floor and close to death from the same poison, sodium azide.
Several stories unfold throughout the novel but at the centre of the main thread is Caroline Goldacre. She was married to a plastic surgeon and had two sons by him, Charlie and William. When this marriage broke down she married Alistair MacKerron and Caroline moved Alistair and her sons to Dorset. The evolution of Caroline within this narrative demonstrates how gradual the process of the complete control and domination of a person can occur and the devastating effects it can have and the lies that people are prepared to overlook out of love and loyalty. Caroline is evil in so many ways and causes so much harm to so many people but you could consider her final act as an attempt at redemption.
Fans of Elizabeth George will welcome this book as a return to a good murder mystery involving the characters we have come to love over years, Havers and Lynley. The good thing about George’s writing is that she mixes it up enough to keep it fresh and interesting.