Book Review: Elizabeth George’s Missing Joseph

Posted April 4, 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 Missing Joseph

Missing Joseph


Elizabeth George

detective mystery, mystery in Hardcover edition that was published by Bantam on 1993 and has 576 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, For the Sake of Elena, In the Presence of the Enemy, Deception on His Mind, In Pursuit of the Proper Sinner, A Traitor to Memory, A Place of Hiding, Playing for the Ashes

Sixth in the Inspector Lynley mystery series set in modern-day London, Missing Joseph starts while Tommy, Barbara, and Simon are still in Cambridge working For the Sake of Elena, 5.

My Take

As usual, George provides a very twisty, torturous plot although the culprit is always obvious, it’s the motive that’s not. It’s incredible how George wraps all the activities and peoples’ pasts around the missing Joseph. She is brilliant.

The plot serves to point up what Simon has been trying to tell Deborah about family being more than blood; they have a huge discussion about giving birth and adopting. If anyone is trying to come up with a convincing argument as to why adoption is just as valid as birthing a child, you could do much worse than to glean ideas from Missing Joseph.

George creates very believable dialog amongst all the classes present: between the teens, the teens and their parents, Polly and her mother, Polly and Colin, and our continuing characters. George also maintains the language for the text.

The Story

The vicar of an obscure village in Lancashire dies of poison…accidental poisoning as proved by the village constable who just happens to be in love with the possible murderess.

The case of the poisoned vicar gets reopened when the St. Jameses arrive to visit the vicar, and Simon learns of the type of poisoning and where the vicar had dinner. Totally impossible for an herbalist to have confused the plants, and yet there is always a chance in a million that just one water hemlock had evolved to appear similar to wild parsnip.

When Simon calls, Tommy leaps at the opportunity to get out of London where they delve deeper into the why‘s and wherefore‘s of the vicar’s last dinner and how Maggie ties in with his interest.

Young Maggie is blossoming early and, much against her mother’s insistence, is engaging in sexual adventures with Nick partly because she wants to retaliate against her mother’s having it off with Colin. And it’s been years since Juliet has been with a man. Polly is also in love with Colin. A helpless love as she has loved him even when his wife, her best friend, was alive. Distraught, Polly is offering up prayers to Venus that Colin will realize that he loves her and not Juliet.

And Colin is so madly in love with Juliet that he maneuvers the investigation into his own hands with disastrous results.

The Characters

The primary characters are Thomas Lynley, eighth Earl of Asherton and DI for Scotland Yard. Lady Helen is the woman he loves. Barbara Havers is a sergeant with Scotland Yard and partnered with Lynley. Simon St. James, a private forensic pathologist, and Deborah St. James, Simon’s wife and a photographer, are Lynley’s friends.

The characters incidental to Missing Joseph include…
Robin Sage is the vicar whom Deborah met at the museum in London. Rita and Polly Yarkin, a mother and daughter — the mother is a psychic while the daughter does for the vicar.

Mrs. Juliet Spence is the local herbalist and possible murderess. Colin Shepherd is the village constable in love with Juliet and loved by Polly. Annie Shepherd is Colin’s six-years dead wife.

Maggie, Josie, and Pam are a trio of thirteen-year-olds obsessed with boys, makeup, and sex. Nick Ware is Maggie’s fifteen-year-old passion.

Mr. and Mrs. Ben Wragg are the proprietors of Crofters Inn in Winslough.

Brendan Power is the hapless bridegroom reaping what he thought he wanted. St. John Townley-Young is the “squire” round these parts whose daughter Brendan has to marry — man, talk about karma coming back to bite you!

The Title

The title itself is extremely accurate as the entire story revolves around Missing Joseph.