In Elizabeth George’s new mystery, “A Banquet of Consequences,” a feminist writer and her editor are murdered, and the complex chemistry between Inspector Lynley and Detective Sergeant Havers continues to spark. George appears Tuesday, Oct. 27, at Third Place Books.

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‘A Banquet of Consequences’

by Elizabeth George

Viking, 576 pp., $28.95

Detective Inspector Thomas Lynley is — says Detective Sergeant Barbara Havers, in her forthright, blundering way — “a decent bloke, for all your fine ways and your family silver and ancestral portraits.” He continues as such in Elizabeth George’s 20th Lynley novel, “A Banquet of Consequences.” Set in London’s New Scotland Yard and featuring the patrician, reserved Lynley and the working-class, cigarette-smoke-ringed bulldog that is Havers, the series continues its familiar, comforting pattern: a crime to solve, and, increasingly, a group of beloved characters to visit.

The mystery here, serviceable if not George’s most compelling, involves a pair of mysterious poisonings: Noted feminist writer Clare Abbott dies, suddenly and mystifyingly, in a Cambridge hotel; shortly afterward, her editor Rory Statham is found near death in her own London flat, having ingested the same deadly compound. Suspicion points to Caroline Goldacre, Clare’s overwrought assistant — or was Caroline, as she herself insists, the target of the crime?

The villain, and some truly dark plot turns, get sorted out all in good time; along the way, we experience the true pleasure of George’s books — spending time with a group of likable (well, most of them) colleagues, about whom we’ve come to care. Unlike in many long-running mystery series, George’s characters grow and change; sometimes gradually, sometimes (as in “With No One As Witness,” in which Lynley’s beloved wife, Helen, was suddenly murdered mid-book) in an instant.

Author appearance

Elizabeth George

The author of “A Banquet of Consequences” will appear at 7 p.m. Tuesday Oct. 27 at Third Place Books in Lake Forest Park; free (206-366-3333 or

In “A Banquet of Consequences,” 18 months since Helen’s death, Lynley is slowly making his way into a new relationship with Daidre, the veterinarian we met in “Careless in Red.” Havers, who aroused boss Isabelle Ardery’s fury after going rogue on an international case (“Just One Evil Act”), is on her best behavior in order to avoid the horrors — the reader must take this on faith — of being transferred to Berwick-upon-Tweed. It’s unlikely, of course, that Barbara can toe the line for long. Meanwhile, the impeccably dressed department secretary, Dorothea, has decided that Sergeant Havers (who kicks off the plot in a T-shirt that reads “On the eighth day God created bacon”) is in need of a makeover — and perhaps a tango class as well?

While George, a Seattle-area resident, doesn’t vary the rhythms of her books much — they’re all long, dialogue-heavy and pleasantly crowded — she excels at creating and developing her characters, revealing just enough to leave readers happy yet yearning for more. Among the highlights here: Havers and DS Winston Nkata becoming chummy temporary housemates in Dorset (she decides, fairly disastrously, to cook him dinner); the tricky, volatile chemistry between Lynley and his ex-lover Isabelle; a companionable cameo appearance from Lynley’s longtime friend Simon St. James; the presence of an undeniably charming dog; and a number of irresistible Britishisms, most of them uttered by Havers.

And, as always, the relationship between Lynley and Havers takes central stage. Though no longer partners, and physically separated for much of the book, their complex, endearing relationship — he wants her to succeed but is infuriated by her stubbornness; she wants his respect but chafes at his rule-following — takes hold of the novel. It’s essentially the same tension between them that’s existed since the first book, written more than a quarter-century ago — and it’s still, miraculously, irresistible.