I think I'm starting to understand why Thomas Lynley is so messed up... I can't hope to disguise the fact that I'm a huge fan of Elizabeth George's, not only of her novels, but her of excellent memoir/instructional book Write Away. I've learned more from reading her books than from half a dozen other authors. A Suitable Vengeance, which flashes back to the time before the first books in the Lynley/Havers series, does not fit the mold of a typical mystery novel. The first body does not hit the ground before more than a hundred pages have passed. George nevertheless keeps the tension high through this action. Her characters are not happy. Good people, interesting people...just not happy. Through this novel, I received answers to questions that I've had since I read A Great Deliverance and I've learned, just as Tommy does in this book, "be careful what you wish for". It was hard to see what it was that made the characters the people I've come to know in previous books. I've learned two lessons over and over from reading George's novels. The first is to let the characters suffer. George is not easy on her characters. Lynley has been through a lot in his life. As has St. James. As has Deborah Cotter. And because of all this trauma, one can't help but care for them. The more I read about Lynley, the more I want to give him a big hug...of course, I still want to slap him upside the head, but then hug him, too. The other lesson goes hand in hand with the first. George's characters are not perfect (hence the urge to slap them). Too many novel these days present us with a perfect hero or heroine, who is acted upon by forces outside of his or her control. It's much more interesting when a character's own flaws cause the crisis of the novel. A small but delightful moment in the novel that I must mention: I did love Barbara Havers' appearance. Her characterization was exactly what one would expect from her at that point in the series' plot. It was interesting to see Lynley describe her at a distance, since she becomes (as his future partner) such an intimate part of his work and life.