Something to Hide by Elizabeth George – Review
By Sandra Callard
The wonderful writer Elizabeth George has come up with another belter of a book, after a too-long absence from her famous Inspector Lynley series. Happily he is back again, although this time he is temporarily in the role of Acting Detective Chief Superintendent, and for once is not always in the forefront of the action.
The subject of the book is the disquieting and vastly disturbing matter of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), and the fact that it is still alive and kicking in the world today, and that includes Great Britain. It is obviously illegal here, and also in Nigeria, but this does not, apparently, stop the practitioners of the act, who perform on girls as young as three years old. These children are disfigured for life, live in constant pain, have difficult childbirths, and some will die – and all because the old society calls it “cleansing and purifying” in preparation for marriage and the greater satisfaction of the man.
In Something to Hide, the salvation of one child, Simisola, becomes a crusade for Lynley, his sidekick Detective Sergeant Barbara Havers, and Detective Constable Winston Nkata, as they plumb the depths of inhumanity in their Herculean attempts to stop her being “cleansed”.
Whilst a Nigerian woman’s murder is the reason for Lynley’s initial intervention in the case, the bulk of this very large and long book is dedicated to the close and detailed information about the world of a certain section of outwardly respectable Nigerians who still follow the old ways and will kill to uphold them. As the murder slowly becomes interlinked with FGM, the strain on the police mounts, and the net widens around the many people who are now involved.
It is without doubt a long and exhaustive trail for Lynley and company, but Elizabeth George has conceived a character like no other in Barbara. Detective Lynley’s second-in-command is unique in literature. She is clever, sharp and rude, and her interviewing technique is appalling, but she does get results. She is also alarmingly funny, and in all the wrong places. In fact, Elizabeth George can bring all her characters truly to life more than most writers, and Barbara is the breathtaking proof of this, as is the strange fact that I would love to meet her!
More characters from previous Lynley books make welcome reappearances. The disabled and outstanding Simon appears, as does his exuberant wife, Deborah St James. Deborah will play a gripping role in the drama as the story unfolds, and the tension mounts as no one knows where the missing girl is, and indeed whether the worst has happened to her.
Detective stories are many and varied and mostly concentrate on finding the person who has committed the murder, but George has cleverly subdued the hunt for the murderer in favour of the hunt for the child. This is nail-biting stuff, and the shock at the end is profound and entirely unexpected. All the clues are drawn together in a totally understandable way, as the reader begins to realise he was on the wrong track.
George’s new book is outstanding. The amount of detail she encompasses in the story is meticulously researched and made available to the layman, as the story is finally laid bare. She is without doubt a class act, and long may she reign.
‘Something to Hide’ by Elizabeth George is published by Hodder & Stoughton, £20 hardback