Book Review: Elizabeth George’s For the Sake of Elena

Posted April 1, 2011 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews

I received this book for free from my own shelves in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review: Elizabeth George’s For the Sake of Elena

For the Sake of Elena


Elizabeth George

detective mystery, mystery that was published by Bantam on 1992 and has 388 pages.

Explore it on Goodreads or Amazon.

Other books by this author which I have reviewed include A Great Deliverance, Payment in Blood, Well-Schooled in Murder, A Suitable Vengeance, Missing Joseph, Deception on His Mind, In Pursuit of the Proper Sinner, A Traitor to Memory, A Place of Hiding, Playing for the Ashes

Fifth in the Inspector Lynley detective mystery series set in modern-day England and revolving around Tommy Lynley, eighth Earl of Asherton, and his Scotland Yard partner, Barbara Havers.

My Take

It all comes down to love of one’s craft, love for another, but mostly, love for one’s self and how it affects everyone around us. It’s a hard lesson for Tommy to absorb and one every man needs to understand. And every woman must comprehend because of its truth. George made a comment about love being about the other person. The interaction between Pen and Harry strongly points this up and gives Tommy the edge the next time he talks with Helen.

A closely-related topic since it is a part of self-love is how the actions of a parent influence their child’s behaviors. I wonder how differently the story would have turned out if mama had been less self-absorbed? Elena’s mother has a chip on her shoulder that’s so big, I’m surprised she hasn’t opened up a lumber store of her own. Then there’s the rigid and extremely careful stepmother; the honored artist who has lost her creativity; and, all the men with whom Elena is involved. I wonder if her mother ever realizes how much influence she had on her daughter and her daughter’s actions?

One of my pet peeves is also expounded in For the Sake of Elena, the interpretation of an artist’s work by, well, for lack of a better word, a non-participant. One of the suspects is a teacher at the University who has his own interpretation of why Shakespeare wrote as he did. Oh, please. What does anyone but the original creator know about why s/he created the play/novel/art as they did? I have no objection to interpreting what you think their reasons were, but do not propound that this is the absolute truth of its creation!

I just love George’s Inspector Lynley series. She sets our expectations on their (our?) heads, and she writes so intelligently! I just picked up the next in the series, Missing Joseph, 6, and I can’t wait to start reading!

The Story

A vibrant, young life is brutally taken and Cambridge University requires Scotland Yard take over the investigation. The father, a history professor and candidate for the Penford Chair, is devastated for the loss of the daughter, Elena, he’s finally getting to know and for the overwhelming sense of guilt he feels for leaving her so many years ago little realizing he is the catalyst.

True to form, George provides so many clues that I got dizzy in the reading. There were so many possible suspects and reasons for offing Elena. It’s fascinating to read through the investigation as we dive further into the reality of the individual.

The Characters

Tommy Lynley, eighth Earl of Asherton and a detective inspector for Scotland Yard, volunteers for the case partly because Lady Helen is helping her sister who just happens to live outside Cambridge. It’s been months since he proposed and she shot him down. Months that he’s spent trying to give up the hope of them as a couple. Barbara Havers, Tommy’s partner at Scotland Yard, has her own cross to bear one arm of which is her inbred hatred for the upper classes with the other arm a mother sinking fast into dementia.

Lady Helen plays an important role along with her sister, Pen. Simon St. James makes a very brief appearance; no sign of Deborah.

One of the minor characters is Miranda Webberly, a jazz musician and student at Cambridge who just happens to be Tommy’s boss’ daughter…and an excellent observer. A side plot involving a young couple bucking the expectations of society provides further illumination on love.

An important pair of characters is Pen and Harry, Lady Helen’s sister and brother-in-law. The couple are at a crisis point in their marriage and its their interactions which drive the main theme in For the Sake of Elena. Love.