Payment in Blood (An Inspector Lynley Mystery) Review

By Sidney Williams

The second book in the Inspector Lynley series, and one of the stories that I remember from the TV show as being pretty convoluted. It is. There are a lot of characters, and a lot of names to remember as they all become intertwined. Nonetheless, this has got to be one of my favorite mysteries that I’ve read in the last year. I’ll discuss more over the course of this article, but it is masterful, and if you are at all interested in mysteries that end up being far more complex than initially thought, I would emphatically recommend you read Payment in Blood. Starting the book as a bit of a “capsule episode” (a story taking place in a single setting), Lynley specifically is asked to investigate the murder of Joy Sinclair which took place immediately after the initial read through of her play. The murder is a locked-room case with the added wrinkle that Helen Clyde was in the room directly adjoining Joy’s room with its own door as a possible access point. After the capsule breaks, the scope of the mystery expands to insane levels and becomes a really exciting romp through tons of loose threads that end up making complete sense over the course of the book, it is truly impressive considering how wide the scope becomes.


Unlike my other Lynley review—Missing Joseph—Payment in Blood can be recommended to a general audience. The only thing I can really say as a “keep in mind” is that Lynley is objectively not a great person in this one. He gets extremely jealous that Helen has found someone other than him to be with, and he becomes obsessed with trying to prove that this other suitor is the killer. In doing so, he says some very insensitive things, and honestly comes across as rather misogynistic. His actions, and the fact that they were a mistake actually becomes a central point of the book, and he (seems to) learn from them. Despite the apparent character growth though, having the main character be this backwards is upsetting, though usually not to the extent where I had to put the book down at any point.


So far, this was my favorite mystery. Starting with all the characters in a secluded mansion where the murder took place behind a locked door is classic and a great way to prevent the reader from getting overwhelmed with an expansive setting. Later, the setting expands, but the effect is more prevention of boredom with the initial setting rather than becoming overwhelming due to too many locations being important. Lynley goes off to explore the British countryside and Havers looks at the past to explore another thread of the case. It’s really interesting how the two stories intertwine, especially as it manifests itself as effectively a competition between Lynley’s theory and Havers’ theory, leading to a very effective fake out and a conclusion that was hard to guess, but made sense with all the information given. I don’t want to go too in depth with anything as that would ruin the surprise, and spoil some of the story beats, but overall I was very impressed.

Again, this is my favorite Lynley mystery that I’ve read so far. Each storyline is interesting, each main character (except Deborah) is useful and adds to the story and the use of setting to contain the story, and then later move it along, is masterful. As well, there was nothing in the book that made me extremely uncomfortable (except the secondhand cringe that results from Lynley being incapable of dealing with jealousy, or romantic feelings in a healthy manner), and that makes it much easier to recommend than Missing Joseph. The mystery is also exciting and so engaging, there were portions of the story that I listened to as an audiobook, and I was getting upset when people interrupted me to talk. I wholeheartedly recommend Payment In Blood, if you have the stamina for the length of the book, and you’re interested in character driven murder mysteries, you will very likely love this book.

Payment in Blood (Inspector Lynley #2) By Elizabeth George Cover Image
ISBN: 9780553384802
Availability: This book is backordered at the warehouse. When you order, we'll contact you with more info about availability.
Published: Bantam - May 1st, 2007

“The Lynley books constitute the smartest, most gratifyingly complex and impassioned mysteries now being published.”—Entertainment Weekly