Review 1309: The Punishment She Deserves

Cover for The Punishment She DeservesWho is meant by the “she” in the title of The Punishment She Deserves is ambiguous at first. The word may refer to Detective Sergeant Barbara Havers, whose superiors, because of her behavior during her previous case, send her on the present case hoping she will mess up so they can transfer her. It may refer to her boss, Isabelle Ardery, whose drinking problem is seriously affecting her life and work. Perhaps it refers to one of the two controlling mothers Barbara and Isabelle encounter in their investigation. Or perhaps someone else.

Isabelle and Barbara are dispatched to look into an investigation of death in custody to see if it was performed correctly. The death in question is the apparent suicide of Ian Druitt, a clergyman who had been arrested after charges of paedophilia. Ludlow’s PCSO Gary Ruddock was dispatched to bring Druitt in to an unmanned station to wait for officers to pick him up for questioning. While Ruddock was making some phone calls, Druitt apparently hanged himself using his stole and a doorknob.

Barbara’s reaction is to investigate whether the death was indeed a suicide, but Ardery tells her their remit is only to determine whether the subsequent investigation was handled correctly. Nevertheless, Barbara uncovers a disturbing fact beyond the one that the allegation against Druitt was made by anonymous phone call. There was a gap of 19 days between the allegation and the order for the arrest, which was said to be urgent.

Barbara includes this fact in the report she writes about the investigation, but Ardery orders her to remove the information because of political reasons. Troubled, Barbara asks Inspector Lynley’s advice. He tells her to leave out the information if she wants to keep her job, but he takes the unedited report and sends it above their boss’s head. The resulting explosion ends with Ardery called on the carpet and Lynley and Havers on their way to Ludlow to investigate thoroughly.

Soon, Lynley and Havers have reason to believe that Druitt’s death was not a suicide. But believing that and proving it or finding the murderer are different things.

This novel finally shows Elizabeth George going back to form, concentrating more on the mystery than on the characters’ private lives and having her protagonists behave more like cops than they have in several of the previous novels. Although the private lives of Lynley and Havers were initially what made this series so interesting, I’ve felt that George has gotten too melodramatic with these plots in the last few books. So, it’s a relief having Barbara worry about tap-dancing class and Lynley concerned about how his relationship with his not very interesting girlfriend is going, but nothing more dramatic.

This mystery is complicated, interesting, and difficult to guess. It involves characters you come to care about. I really enjoyed it. I’m glad about this, because I’ve wondered whether I wanted to continue reading this series, and now I’m looking forward to the next one.

Related Posts

A Banquet of Consequences

Just One Evil Act

Believing the Lie

5 thoughts on “Review 1309: The Punishment She Deserves

  1. katknit January 28, 2019 / 4:25 pm

    The way Lynley behaved after the death of his wife turned my stomach. I no longer read this series, though I do still like Havers.
    Interesting review.

    • whatmeread January 28, 2019 / 4:27 pm

      Yes, and then Havers had her own misjudgments.

  2. Asha Seth January 29, 2019 / 4:18 am

    I always find Series too taxing for their sheer demand of time.

  3. Ruthiella January 31, 2019 / 5:37 pm

    I am so glad to hear that George is back on track with this one. I agree, the lives of the detectives were threatening to overtake the series and IMO their behavior was not really adding up compared to previous novels.

    I really disliked Believing the Lie and Just One Evil Act. So much so, I was considering giving up on reading any further. I still have A Banquet of Consequences to read, however, before I get to this title.

    • whatmeread January 31, 2019 / 5:41 pm

      Yes, so did I dislike both of those.

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