Playing for the Ashes (Inspector Lynley Series #7)

Playing for the Ashes (Inspector Lynley Series #7)

by Elizabeth George

Hardcover(Library Binding)

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Overview

"The story begins with my father, actually, and the fact that I'm the one who's answerable for his death. It was not my first crime, as you will see, but it is the one my mother couldn't forgive."

In her astonishing New York Times bestseller, acclaimed author Elizabeth George reveals the even darker truth behind this startling confession. Playing for the Ashes is a rich tale of passion, murder and love in which Inspector Thomas Lynley and Detective Sergeant Barbara Havers once again find themselves embroiled in a case where nothing--and no one--is really what it seems. Intense, suspenseful and brilliantly written, Playing for the Ashes will make readers "search out the sleuthing pair's first six adventures...a treasure," as Cosmopolitan predicted in their review.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780613094955
Publisher: Demco Media
Publication date: 01/28/1995
Series: Inspector Lynley Series , #7
Product dimensions: 6.50(w) x 1.50(h) x 9.50(d)
Age Range: 12 - 17 Years

About the Author

Elizabeth George’s first novel, A Great Deliverance, was honored with the Anthony and Agatha Best First Novel Awards and received the Grand Prix de Littérature Policière. Her third novel, Well-Schooled in Murder, was awarded the prestigious German prize for suspense fiction, the MIMI. A Suitable Vengeance, For the Sake of Elena, Missing Joseph, Playing for the Ashes, In the Presence of the Enemy, Deception on His Mind, In Pursuit of the Proper Sinner, A Traitor to Memory, and I, Richard were international bestsellers. Elizabeth George divides her time between Huntington Beach, California, and London. Her novels are currently being dramatized by the BBC.

Hometown:

Seattle, Washington

Date of Birth:

February 26, 1949

Place of Birth:

Warren, Ohio

Education:

A.A. Foothill Community College, 1969; B.A. University of California, Riverside, 1970; M.S. California State University

Read an Excerpt

It was shortly after noon when Detective Inspector Isabelle Ardery first saw Celandine Cottage. The sun was high in the sky, casting small pools of shadow at the base of the fir trees that lined the drive. This had been sealed off with yellow police tape. One panda car, a red Sierra, and a blue and white milk-float were lined up on the lane.

She parked behind the milk-float and surveyed the area, feeling grim despite her initial pleasure at being called out on another case so soon. For information gathering,the location didn't look promising. There were several houses farther along the lane, timber-framed with peg-tiled roofs like the cottage in which the fire had occurred, but they were each surrounded with enough land to give them quiet and privacy. So if the fire in question turned out to be arson—as was suggested by the words questionable ignition scrawled at the bottom of the note Ardery had received from her chief constable not an hour ago—it might prove unlikely that any of the neighbours had heard or seen someone or something suspicious.

With her collection kit in hand, she ducked under the tape and swung open the gate at the end of the drive. Across a paddock to the east where a bay mare was grazing, half a dozen onlookers leaned against a split chestnut fence. She could hear their murmured speculation as she walked up the drive. Yes, indeed, she told them mentally as she passed through a smaller gate into the garden, a woman investigator, even for a fire. Welcome to the waning years of our century.

"Inspector Ardery?" It was a female voice. Isabelle turned to see another woman waiting on the brick path that led in two directions: to thefront door and round towards the back of the house. She'd apparently come from this latter direction. "DS Coffman," she said cheerfully. "Greater Springburn CID."

Isabelle joined her. She offered her hand.

Coffman said, "The guv's not here at the moment. He rode with the body to Pembury Hospital."

Isabelle frowned at this oddity. Greater Springburn's chief superintendent had been the one to request her presence in the first place. It was a breach of police etiquette for him to leave the site before her arrival. "The hospital?" she asked. "Have you no medical examiner to accompany the
body?"

Coffman gave her eyes a quick rise heavenward. "Oh, he was here as well, graciously assuring us that the corpse was dead. But there's to be a news conference when they i.d. the victim, and the guv loves that stuff. Give him a microphone, five minutes of your time, and he does a fairly decent John Thaw."

"Who's still here, then?"

"Couple of probationary DCs getting their first chance to suss things out. And the bloke who discovered the mess. Snell, he's called."

"What about the fire brigade?"

"They've been and gone. Snell phoned emergency from next door, house across from the spring. Emergency sent the fire team."

"And?"

Coffman smiled. "Luck for your side. Once they got in, they could see the fire'd been out for hours. They didn't touch a thing. They just phoned CID and waited till we got here."

That fact, at least, was a blessing. One of the biggest difficulties in arson investigation was the necessary existence of the fire brigade. They were trained to two tasks: saving lives and extinguishing fires. Intent upon that, more often than not they axed down doors, flooded rooms, collapsed ceilings, and in the process obliterated evidence.

Isabelle ran her gaze over the building. She said, "All right. I'll take a moment out here, first."

"Shall I—"

"Alone, please."

Coffman said, "Quite. I'll leave you to it," and strode off towards the back of the house. She paused at the northeast corner of the building, turning back and pushing a curl of oak-coloured hair from her face. ""The hot spot's this way when you're ready," she said. She began to raise an index finger in comradely salute, apparently thought better of it, and disappeared round the side of the house.

Isabelle stepped off the brick path and crossed the lawn, walking to the far corner of the property. There she turned back and gazed first at the cottage and then at the grounds that surrounded it.

If arson had been committed here, finding evidence outside the building wasn't going to be easy. It would take hours to conduct a search on the grounds because Celandine Cottage was an amateur gardener's dream: hung on the south end by wisteria just coming into bloom, surrounded by flower beds from which grew everything from forget-me-nots to heather, from white violets to lavender, from pansies to tulips. Where there weren't flower-beds, there was lawn, thick and lush. Where there wasn't lawn, there were shrubs in bloom. Where there weren't shrubs, there were trees. These lastprovided a partial screen from the lane and another from the nearest neighbour. If there were footprints, tyre prints, discarded tools, fuel containers, or matchbooks, it was going to take some effort to find them.

Isabelle circled the house carefully, moving east to northwest. She examined windows. She scanned the ground. She gave her attention to roof and to doors. In the end, she made her way to the back where the kitchen door stood open and where, under an arbour across which a grapevine was beginning to unfurl its leaves, a middle-aged man sat at a wicker table, with his head sunk into his chest and his hands pressed together between his knees. A glass of water stood, untouched, before him.

"Mr. Snell?"

The man lifted his head. "Took the body, they did," he said. "She was covered up all from head to toe. She was wrapped up and tied down. It looked like they'd put her in some sort of bag. It's not proper, that, is it? It's not quite decent. It's not even respectful."

Isabelle joined him, pulling out a chair and setting her collection kit on the concrete. She felt an instant's duty to comfort him, but making an effort at compassion seemed pointless. Dead was dead no matter what anyone said or did. Nothing changed that fact for the living. "Mr. Snell, were the doors locked or unlocked when you arrived?"

"I tried to get in when she didn't answer. But I couldn't. So I looked in the window." He squeezed his hands together and took a tremulous breath. "She wouldn't have suffered, would she? I heard one of them say the body wasn't even burnt and that's why they could tell who it was straightaway. Did she die from the smoke, then?"

"We won't know anything for certain until a postmortem is done," DS Coffman said. She'd come to the doorway. Her answer sounded professionally cautious.

The man seemed to accept it. He said, "What about them kittens?"

"Kittens?" Isabelle asked.

"Miss Gabriella's kittens. Where're they? No one's brought them
out."

Coffman said, "They must be outside somewhere. We've not run across them in the house."

"But she got herself two little 'uns last week. Two kittens. From over by the spring. Someone'd dumped them in a cardboard box next to the footpath. She brought them home. She was caring for them. They slept in the kitchen in their own little basket and—" Snell wiped the back of his wrist against his eyes. "I got to see to the milk delivery. Before it goes bad."

"Have you got his statement?" Isabelle asked Coffman as she ducked beneath the low lintel of the doorway to join the DS in the kitchen.

"For what it's worth. Thought you might want to have a chat with him yourself. Shall I send him off?"

"If we've got his address."

"Right. I'll see to it. We're in through there." Coffman gestured towards an inner door. Beyond it, Isabelle could see the curve of a dining table and the end of a wall-sized fireplace.

"Who's been inside?"

"Three blokes from the fire brigade. The CID lot."

"Crime team?"

"Just the photographer and the pathologist. I thought it best to keep the rest out till you had a look.


From the Audio Cassette edition.

Table of Contents

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Playing for the Ashes (Inspector Lynley Series #7) 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 37 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
George shows her versatility and her mastery of technique here. Her use of both first and third person adds much to the suspense and keeps the reader interested as the story unfolds. Complex characters reveal their secrets as their lives converge in an exciting conclusion. Compelling, sad, ironic, and well-written.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I had to write this although I read this book a few years ago. I disagree with the other review in that the diary format was very readable and many scenes I still remember vividly
Guest More than 1 year ago
The seemingly perfect life of a sensational cricket player has been cut short. But was it REALLY perfect? Sophisticated Inspector Lynley and his rough-edged sidekick Havers discover all the hows and whys in Elizabeth George's PLAYING FOR THE ASHES. Should the athlete have left his wife? Could his teenaged son be involved? Did his mistress cause his death or was it her husband? And what part did his former teacher play, a woman who had been championing him since he was a young man? George keeps us guessing with style, presenting suspect after suspect and discarding them. Played out against the usual backdrop of Great Britain's social contrasts, PLAYING FOR ASHES offers an entertaining, if somewhat lengthy, read. The returning characters of the butler Denton, Lady Helen, and the entire crew at New Scotland Yard are touched upon less frequently than usual. Denton, in particular, seems to be included more for comic effect this time around. George's technique of interspersing first person 'journal' entries from the character Olivia, a sad and depressing former prostitute, really did not add to the book. Inspite of this, I recommend PLAYING FOR ASHES as an interesting portrait of love and failure.
patience_grayfeather on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Her plots are so well-woven and she weaves a theme brilliantly thru her plots and subplots. Kenny is dead. His wife, Jeannie, has been struggling to hold onto his love. His patron, Miriam, wants his love as does his lover, Gabriella. Livie, Miriam¿s estranged daughter, wants Chris¿s love as he wants Amanda¿s. Jimmy wants his father, Kenny, to again complete the family that he so sullenly loves. Havers is finally seeing that trashy romance novels are no substitute. And Helen demands to know why Lynley loves her and how can he put that in words? ¿Love, Olivia. That¿s always the beginning of things, isn¿t it? What I didn¿t understand is that it¿s also the end.¿Looking forward to the next George novel.
annemarie246 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Started out interesting, but had to force myself to finish reading.
LisaMaria_C on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I thought this one was an improvement over Missing Joseph, the last entry in the Lynley Mysteries and my least favorite of the novels to date. That one barely featured my favorite character in the partnership of Detective Inspector Thomas Lynley and Detective Sergeant Barbara Havers--here she's back in form. And it's not just her presence per se I missed, I think Lynley is a better, more interesting character with her to play off of as well. I remember one scene--the "Kwai Tan" bluff by Barbara where I smiled widely thinking this is a lot of why I love this character. And for once both the personal subplots with Havers and Lynley were hopeful and positive. I was particularly charmed by Havers developing a friendship with Hadiyyah--a charming little girl, seven going on eight, who is her neighbor.The title "Playing for the Ashes" is a cricket term, and this mystery involves the murder by arson of cricket star Kenneth Fleming who rose from working class roots to play for England. Three very different women loved him and have been loved by him. There's Miriam Whitelaw, his former teacher, old enough to be his mother, who he was living with at the time of his death. There's Jean Cooper, the wife he's been separated from for years who still hopes she can get back his love. And there's Gabrielle Patten, his lover and wife of the team sponsor. It's these women, and those connected with them--Miriam's daughter, Jean's son, Gabrielle's lovers and husband--who hold the key to his death. In a departure from George's usual style, the third person narrative is punctuated throughout with chapters in first person from the point of view of Olivia Whitelaw, the daughter of Miriam. Like one reviewer, I found this off-putting, especially since this begins the book and I found I greatly disliked Olivia. That never changed, even if I did find myself having sympathy for her by the end. I also noted this novel in the series overindulged in crude language. I'm no prude, and I don't usually even notice the use of obscenities, but in this case I felt a bit assaulted by their use. I also felt the Olivia chapters, and other scenes not involving the two detectives, were overlong and by and large an unnecessary drag on the narrative. The first Lynley mysteries, such as the first, A Great Deliverance were not much longer than 400 pages. This one was close to 700 pages. I worry George is succumbing to the problem you see in successful, and thus unedited, authors such as Tom Clancy and Stephen King, where their novels become bloated. I did enjoy this book though, enough to read more of the series.
hobbitprincess on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is the 7th of the Inspector Lynley novels. A player for England's cricket team has been murdered. Who did it - the soon-to-be-ex wife who stills love him, the disappointed disreputable teenage son, the "sugar mama" who has taken him under her wing, the "sugar mama"'s daughter who has been disinherited, the blonde girlfriend who wants to marry him, or someone else? The mystery is solved in the end, but it's not who you might think did it. George does such a good job of telling the stories of not just the main characters but all of the characters. I really got caught up in their stories in this novel.
bobandladyjane on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Always dark!!! Always exciting!!!!! Always a great great great read!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
MiserableLibrarian on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
In this seventh Lynley/Havers story, the two investigate the death of Kenneth Fleming, a popular if controversial cricket player, who is found dead in a cottage, the apparent victim of arson. A number of interesting sublots, including a subversive animal rights group, an estranged daughter with a dark and troubled past, and the manipulations and machinations of an elderly female social do-gooder makes for a good whodunit. Lynley pops the question to Lady Helen, and Havers settles into her new digs and finds a friend.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
While I enjoy Ms. George's characters and plots, I often think she needs an editor to tighten things up a bit. I'm on my seventh Lynley novel, so I clearly like the books, but at times I become frustrated with her often-distracting and lengthy detailed descriptions--the foliage in a garden, or the décor in a sitting room--which often go on for multiple paragraphs. I've found myself saying, "Okay, I get it--can we get back to the narrative?" This is important, because, as with all good mysteries, the numerous characters and their interaction are complicated and crucial; I've often had to go back to reread a couple of paragraphs in order to pick up the thread of the narrative after a couple of long descriptive passages. In any case, "Playing for the Ashes" is nearly 700 trade-paperback pages, a story that could have been told in far fewer. Also, in the last couple of books I've read, Ms. George seems almost determined to become as descriptive as possible about the sex acts that occur with regularity in her books. I'm hardly a prude or naïve about that set of activities, but she seems to have developed an almost prurient interest in the topic.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
While I enjoy Ms. George's characters and plots, I often think she needs an editor to tighten things up a bit. I'm on my seventh Lynley novel, so I clearly like the books, but at times I become frustrated with her often-distracting and lengthy detailed descriptions--the foliage in a garden, or the décor in a sitting room--which often go on for multiple paragraphs. I've found myself saying, "Okay, I get it--can we get back to the narrative?" This is important, because, as with all good mysteries, the numerous characters and their interaction are complicated and crucial; I've often had to go back to reread a couple of paragraphs in order to pick up the thread of the narrative after a couple of long descriptive passages. In any case, "Playing for the Ashes" is nearly 700 trade-paperback pages, a story that could have been told in far fewer. Also, in the last couple of books I've read, Ms. George seems almost determined to become as descriptive as possible about the sex acts that occur with regularity in her books. I'm hardly a prude or naïve about that set of activities, but she seems to have developed an almost prurient interest in the topic.
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HonoluLou More than 1 year ago
An intricate, tangle of peoples lives; lifelike and easy to read. What a great mystery this was. I was apprehensive because of some of the reviews I read. However, Ms. George makes it sooooo interesting I couldn't put it down!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
George goes beyond her usual excellence in this one. Parallel stories are handled with dexterity and aplomb. Yet she never losses or dilutes the theme.
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