Elizabeth George isn't quite back on form, but she's getting there. While not quite up to her late-90s peak, Believing the Lie us her best book since A Traitor to Memory. Ian Cresswell drowns in his uncle, Sir Bernard Fairclough's boathouse in Cumbria. The local coroner decides it's an accidental death, but Fairclough asks Assistant Commissioner Hillier for help. Hillier, of course, summons DI Tommy Lynley to his club, gives him the assignment, and tells him he's on his own - no help from the Yard, and if things go wrong, he was never sent there. Without the Yard's help, Lynley turns to his friends Simon and Deborah St.James to join him, Simon for his forensic expertise and Deborah to surreptitiously investigate Fairclouth's son.
Meanwhile, tabloid reporter Zed Benjamin is also on his way to Cumbria to save his soon-to-be spiked story. Fairclough's son Nick, a recovering addict, has organized a project to restore a pele tower with rehabbing addicts performing the labor as a form of therapy. It's an inspiring tale - but not sexy, at least in the eyes of Zed's editor. Sadly, Zed isn't much of a tabloid investigator, and when he hears that a Scotland Yard detective is also investigating Nick Fairclouth and his wife Aletea, he assumes it's Deborah - who plays along under the guise of DS Cotter.
Believing the Lie focuses in Lynley, but George periodically shifts the focus to DS Barbara Havers in London. Under Acting Superintendent Isabelle Ardery's orders, Havers has fixed her teeth and (when officially on duty) her wardrobe, but Ardery still isn't pleased with the brilliant but rough-edged detective. Particularly when Barbara knows about Lynley's case and Isabelle - with whom Lynley has been having a (not as) clandestine (as he thinks) affair - does not. Havers's search turns up information on Aletea Fairclough and a series of misinterpreted conversations lead to tragedy in Cumbria.
As usual, George weaves several side plots (they're too important to call them subplots) through her narrative. There's Lynley's affair with Ardery, of course; Ian Cresswell's disturbed and victimized son; Nick's sisters, responsible Minette and woman-child Mignon; and Havers's increasingly awkward relationship with her neighbor Taymullah Azhar. Azhar and his daughter Hidayyah came into Barbara's life in Playing for the Ashes, and she's grown close to both of them. Hidayyah is the sort of little girl who never speaks when she can sing or walks when she can skip and she's helped Barbara heal from her series of family tragedies. Barbara's relationship with Azhar seemed to be taking tentative steps towards romance, until Hidayyah's mother Angela Uppman returned at the end of This Body of Death. Barbara reluctantly enters a friendship with the chic woman (who does help her satisfy her boss's edicts), and that puts her in an awkward position - and sets up George's next book. I'm looking forward to Just One Evil Act, not just because I enjoyed Believing the Lie, but because it focuses on Barbara Havers.