There is a point at which book length blows right past editorial failure and becomes authorial self-indulgence.
JRR Tolkien's epic fantasy The Lord of the Rings clocks in at 1178 pages, which includes a lengthy series of Appendices. The story itself is right about 1080 pages. Think about that for a moment - Tolkien is considered to be a bit on the verbose side, and he was able to complete an entire epic adventure in under 1100 pages, with at least three different narratives occurring simultaneously.
The mass market paperback edition of this book was 960 pages long. My kindle edition claimed to be 690 pages long, although it honestly felt longer. This is at least double, if not triple, the length of most mystery novels.
And it showed. This Body of Death could easily have been one-third shorter without losing much of importance. The book was scattered, all over the place, with too much going on, while, bizarrely, still, with not enough going on. Calling it "leisurely" is an understatement.
However, over all, I liked it. I do not think that George is back to her old form by any stretch of the imagination, but, her books do, at least, take seriously the toll of violence on communities, on people, and on police officers. Other readers have complained that this book spends too much time on the contradictions and inconsistencies inherent in the juvenile justice system, and in a sociological discussion of the impacts of violence and poverty (and violent poverty) on children, and it is true that George's biases are made pretty clear in this book. Nonetheless, I felt that the time spent exploring the historical time frame, while it was a digression, was necessary to explain why events unfolded as they did. She just could have - and should have - done it with about 25% as many words. This was not a clean narrative.
I am prepared to give her the benefit of the doubt on Isabelle Ardery. I never thought that Tommy Lynley was convincing as the D.S. because he so clearly didn't want the job. She reminds me a bit, up front, of Jane Tennison from the Prime Suspect series, broken and desperate, but fully committed to police work.
In any event, I need to decompress from this book before I tackle the next one, which is also more than 600 pages long.
Well. Okay then. Interesting.
Oh, for the love. Seriously? Gratuitous, ill-advised co-worker sex? Must we?
Well, hell. I am totally baffled about how all of these threads weave together. I have one idea, but, it requires shoving some facts around and it doesn't really make sense. Who is Gina Dickens?
NOTE: This book is fucking long as hell. I am on page 466, with over 200 pages left. I feel like it should be over.
This is a seriously complicated mystery. Will she be able to tie up the loose ends?
The main mystery is chugging a long. Not enough Havers. Not sure about this new woman DS (or whatever she is). Obviously a serious alcohol problem. I *think* I have figured something out.
Secrets and lies. Inklings begin to form. Seems like an improvement from the last book, but it is still early days.