An isolated beach on the island of Guernsey in the English Channel is the scene of the murder of Guy Brouard, one of Guernsey's wealthiest inhabitants and its main benefactor. Forced as a child to flee the Nazis in Paris, Brouard was engaged in his latest project when he died: a museum in honor of those who resisted the German occupation of the island during World War II.
Fans disappointed by George's atypical story collection, I, Richard (2002), will be relieved to find the bestselling transatlantic author back at the top of her form. This exquisitely plotted mystery bursts with well-developed characters, notably forensic scientist Simon St. James and his photographer wife, Deborah. Lured by the free airline tickets and the $5,000 fee, China River, an old friend of Deborah's, and her half-brother, Cherokee (their mother was into the hippie counterculture), agree to fly from sunny California to rainy England to deliver a package containing architectural drawings to Guy Brouard, a rich landholder on the Channel island of Guernsey. The drawings are for a museum Brouard plans to build on the island honoring those who resisted the WWII German occupation. When the philandering philanthropist gets murdered and the police arrest China, Cherokee turns to Simon and Deborah for help. Curiously, for all the victim's wealth, no one seems to benefit from his death. The theme of hiding-of hopes, of the past, of secret places-underpins this intricate story about friendship, anger, loyalty and betrayal. Comic touches provide some relief as the suspense builds to an unexpected and explosive climax. With her flair for language, George reinforces her reputation as one of today's finest mystery writers. (July 29) Forecast: The broadcast this summer of four new mystery episodes on PBS featuring George's Inspector Lynley, who makes a cameo appearance in A Place of Hiding, may help lengthen the novel's run on bestseller lists. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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August 03, 2004
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Excerpt from A Place of Hiding by Elizabeth George
Santa Ana winds were no friends of photography, but that was something you could not tell an egomaniacal architect who believed his entire reputation rested upon capturing for posterity--and for Architectural Digest--fifty-two thousand square feet of unfinished hillside sprawl today. You couldn't even try to tell him that. Because when you finally found the location after making what felt like two dozen wrong turns, you were already late, he was already ticked off, and the arid wind was already throwing up so much dust that all you wanted to do was get out of there as fast as possible, which wasn't going to be possible if you argued with him over whether you were going to take the pictures in the first place. So you took them, never mind the dust, never mind the tumbleweeds that seemed to have been imported by a special-effects team to make several million dollars' worth of California ocean-view real estate look like Barstow in August, and never mind the fact that the grit got under your contact lenses and the air made your skin feel like peach pits and your hair like burnt hay. The job was everything; the job was all. And since China River supported herself by doing the job, she did it.
But she wasn't happy. When she completed the work, a patina of grime lay on her clothes and against her skin, and the only thing she wanted--other than a tall glass of the coldest water she could find and a long soak in a very cool tub--was to be out of there: off the hillside and closer to the beach. So she said, "That's it, then. I'll have proofs for you to choose from the day after tomorrow. One o'clock? Your office? Good. I'll be there," and she strode off without giving the man a chance to reply. She didn't much care about his reaction to her abrupt departure, either.
She drove back down the hillside in her ancient Plymouth, along a smoothly paved road, potholes being permanently banned in Montecito. The route took her past houses of the Santa Barbara super-rich who lived their shielded privileged lives behind electronic gates, where they swam in designer swimming pools and toweled themselves off afterwards on terrycloth as thick and white as a Colorado snow bank. She braked occasionally for Mexican gardeners who sweated behind those protective walls and for teenage girls on horseback who bounced along in tight-fitting blue jeans and skimpy T-shirts. The hair on these girls swung in the sunlight. On every last one of them it was long and straight and shiny like something lit it from within. Their skin was flawless and their teeth were perfect, too. And not a single one of them carried an ounce of unwanted flesh anywhere. But then, why would they? Weight wouldn't have had the moral fortitude to linger upon them any longer than the time it took them to stand on the bathroom scale, get hysterical, and fling themselves at the toilet afterwards.
They were so pathetic, China thought. The whole coddled, undernourished crowd of them. And what was worse for the little twits: Their mothers probably looked exactly like them, doing their part to be role models for a lifetime of personal trainers, plastic surgery, shopping excursions, daily massages, weekly manicures, and regular sessions with a shrink. There was nothing like having a gold-plated meal ticket, courtesy of some idiot whose only requirement of his women was zeroed in on the looks department.