Review: “Just One Evil Act” by Elizabeth George

Elizabeth George’s “Just One Evil Act” is the 18th installment in her long-running and critically acclaimed Inspector Lynley series. Published in 2013, this novel delves deep into the complex interplay of personal and professional lives, exploring themes of betrayal, deception, and the often blurry lines between good and evil. Spanning from the serene English countryside to the bustling streets of Italy, George’s novel is a masterful blend of psychological intrigue and procedural detective work.

Plot Overview

“Just One Evil Act” centers around the lives of Detective Inspector Thomas Lynley and his longtime partner, Detective Sergeant Barbara Havers. The story kicks off with Barbara’s neighbor, Taymullah Azhar, a microbiologist of Pakistani descent, whose daughter Hadiyyah is abducted by her mother, Angelina Upman. Distraught and desperate, Azhar turns to Barbara for help, drawing her into a deeply personal and emotionally charged investigation.

Barbara, known for her unorthodox methods and fierce loyalty, throws herself into the case, determined to reunite Azhar with his daughter. Her actions, however, lead her into conflict with her superiors, including Lynley, and result in a suspension. Undeterred, Barbara travels to Italy, where she navigates a labyrinthine legal system and encounters a cast of characters ranging from Italian police officials to Angelina’s enigmatic lover, Lorenzo Mura.

As the investigation unfolds, Barbara and Lynley uncover a web of lies and deceit that challenge their perceptions of right and wrong. The case takes several unexpected twists, culminating in a dramatic and emotionally charged conclusion that forces both detectives to confront their own beliefs and biases.

Themes Explored

Betrayal and Deception: At its core, “Just One Evil Act” is a novel about betrayal in its many forms. From Angelina’s betrayal of Azhar to the deceptive actions of various characters encountered throughout the investigation, Elizabeth George explores how trust is built, broken, and sometimes irreparably damaged.

Morality and Ethics: The novel delves into the moral ambiguities that arise in the pursuit of justice. Barbara Havers’ willingness to bend the rules and Lynley’s internal struggle with her methods highlight the ethical dilemmas faced by law enforcement officers. The title itself, “Just One Evil Act,” underscores the idea that a single moment of moral failing can have far-reaching consequences.

Cultural and Social Tensions: George adeptly addresses cultural and social tensions, particularly those surrounding Azhar’s Pakistani heritage and the challenges he faces in a predominantly white, Western society. The novel also touches on issues of immigration, identity, and the impact of cultural differences on personal relationships.


Barbara Havers: Barbara Havers is the heart of the novel. Her unyielding determination, loyalty to Azhar, and willingness to take risks make her a compelling protagonist. George masterfully depicts Barbara’s internal struggles, including her sense of guilt, frustration with the bureaucratic system, and her complex relationship with Lynley.

Thomas Lynley: Inspector Lynley serves as a foil to Barbara’s impulsive nature. His more measured approach to the investigation and his internal conflict about Barbara’s methods add depth to his character. Lynley’s own personal history and grief over his late wife, Helen, influence his decisions and interactions with Barbara.

Taymullah Azhar: Azhar’s desperation and vulnerability are poignantly portrayed. His love for his daughter and his anguish over her abduction make him a sympathetic character. George explores his cultural identity and the prejudices he faces, adding layers to his character and highlighting broader societal issues.

Angelina Upman and Lorenzo Mura: Angelina, as the antagonist, is portrayed with complexity. Her motivations for abducting Hadiyyah and her relationship with Lorenzo Mura are central to the plot. Mura, with his own hidden agendas, adds an element of intrigue and danger.

Writing Style and Atmosphere

Elizabeth George’s writing is characterized by its intricate plotting, rich character development, and keen psychological insight. Her ability to weave multiple narrative threads into a cohesive and compelling story is evident in “Just One Evil Act.” The novel’s settings, from the quaint English village to the vibrant streets of Italy, are vividly described, immersing readers in the diverse locales.

George’s attention to detail and her nuanced exploration of human emotions and motivations elevate the novel beyond a typical crime thriller. Her prose is both elegant and accessible, making for a page-turning read that is as intellectually stimulating as it is entertaining.

Reception and Legacy

“Just One Evil Act” received critical acclaim for its complex characters, intricate plot, and exploration of ethical dilemmas. Fans of the Inspector Lynley series appreciated the deeper focus on Barbara Havers, a character who had often played a secondary role in previous novels. Critics praised George’s ability to tackle contemporary social issues within the framework of a compelling mystery.

The novel’s reception solidified Elizabeth George’s reputation as a master of psychological suspense and procedural crime fiction. Her ability to create multi-dimensional characters and address profound moral questions has garnered her a loyal readership and critical respect.


In “Just One Evil Act,” Elizabeth George delivers a thought-provoking and emotionally charged novel that delves into the darkest corners of human nature and the complexities of justice. Through the lens of a gripping crime investigation, George explores themes of betrayal, morality, and cultural tensions, offering readers a rich and immersive reading experience.

Barbara Havers and Thomas Lynley, with their distinct personalities and shared history, anchor the narrative, providing a compelling dynamic that drives the story forward. As the investigation unfolds, readers are drawn into a world where the line between right and wrong is blurred, and where the consequences of one’s actions can resonate far beyond the immediate moment.

Whether you’re a longtime fan of the Inspector Lynley series or a newcomer to Elizabeth George’s work, “Just One Evil Act” is a novel that promises to engage, challenge, and ultimately satisfy with its intricate storytelling and profound insights into the human condition.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *