When Deborah St James seeks refuge from the rain and her own sadness in the National Gallery, she does not expect to find herself confessing to an Anglican priest, Robin Sage. Still less to be doing so as they contemplate Leonardo’s cartoon of the Virgin and Child with St Anne, wondering why — yet again — poor Joseph should have been excluded.
Far more shocking than confiding in a stranger is the discovery, just a few months later, that the Reverend Sage is dead — from accidental poisoning. But as Deborah and her husband, Simon, soon realize, the Vicar’s death was far from straightforward. As their suspicions grow, they turn to their old friend Lynley, on leave from Scotland Yard, and together they begin to search for the truth.
First published: 1992
Missing Joseph is the sixth novel in the Inspector Lynley mysteries series. I’ve read the first five as well, and loved them, but for some reason it always takes me quite a long time to get through these books. While they are interesting all the way through, they don’t become pageturners until the end.
I did really enjoy Missing Joseph, which had a very interesting and intricate plot. What I loved most about this novel (and about the previous five) is the amount of attention George pays to every character’s personality and development. Of course we already know Lynley, Lady Helen, Deborah and St James, and their characters get developed even further, but what mostly strikes me as interesting is the large roles of the suspects or side characters. In this case that would be the inhabitants of Winslough, the village where the vicar died. We don’t just get to see these villagers through the eyes of Lynley and his “sidekicks”. We get to see (parts of) their stories through their own eyes.
You’ve got the troubled Constable Shepherd, the suspect Juliet Spence and her daughter Maggie, the lovesick Polly Yarkin, and many more. I really came to care about all of these characters because of all the little details about their lives George provides the reader with. She doesn’t skip over anything just to get to the mystery and the solving of this mystery. She takes her time, and I really admire that about her stories. It does result in this not really being a pageturner, like I said above, but I’m fine with that. It just meant it took me a bit longer to finish this novel. Of course, it would’ve been even better if George had managed to make this into a pageturner as well as paying so much attention to all of the characters, but hey, can’t have it all.
I don’t really know what else to say about this book, to be completely honest. I enjoyed reading it, and was impressed by the ending and the final revelation. Missing Joseph is a solid mystery novel, like I’ve come to expect from Elizabeth George, and I would definitely recommend it to everyone who enjoys a good detective novel.