The highly regarded Inspector Lynley books feature Scotland Yard Detective Inspector Thomas Lynley and Detective Sergeant Barbara Havers as the protagonists. To fully understand the character development of these two characters it is very important to read the Elizabeth George books in order.
The series is so quintessentially British that it is a surprise to find out that Elizabeth George is an American writer. The series has been both a critical and commercial success internationally and has been translated into more than 21 languages.
Several books of the successful series have been adapted by the BBC for television. The Inspector Lynley Mysteries aired from 2001 to 2008 starring Nathaniel Parker as Lynley and Sharon Small as Havers.
Who is Elizabeth George?
Susan Elizabeth George was born February 26, 1949 in Warren, Ohio. She has one sibling, an older brother who is also a writer, Robert Rivelle George. The family relocated to San Francisco when she was just 18 months old.
Collectively, George has written more than 25 novels with most of them being part of her Inspector Lynley series. In addition to being an author George attended post-secondary and obtained an English degree as well as a teaching certificate. She continues to give courses in creative writing.
She also established the Elizabeth George Foundation in 1997.
George has won and been nominated for several awards, like the Anthony Award, Agatha Award, Edgar Award, Macavity Award, Grand Prix de Littérature Policière from France, and MIMI Award from Germany.
Elizabeth George also writes the Whidbey Island Saga for young adults.
Who are Inspector Thomas Lynley and Detective Sergeant Barbara Havers?
Detective Inspector Thomas Lynley and Detective Sergeant Barbara Havers are the protagonists in Elizabeth George’s series of police procedurals which take place in Britain. They are polar opposites in many ways, yet make a very good team and have a high regard for each other. They also act as interesting foils to each other as the books often highlight contemporary issues of gender, class, and other social differences.
That is because Aristocratic Thomas Lynley is not your typical Scotland Yard detective. He doesn’t really need to work, because he is the 8th Earl of Asherton, good-looking, independently wealthy, and a charming gentleman in all senses of the word. He is the accomplished and self-assured product of a private upper-class education, attending both Eton College and Oxford University.
However, his partner, feisty and often blunt Detective Sergeant Barbara Havers, couldn’t be more different. She comes from a working-class background and her education was obtained in state schools.
Havers is abrasive and often somewhat socially inept. She is also untidy, quick-tempered, and has a non-existent dress sense. She struggles with money and lives very modestly.
These differences make their relationship a complex and multi-layered one.
Elizabeth George Books in Order
Inspector Lynley Series
We’ll start off our list of Elizabeth George books in order with the Inspector Lynley Series. Publication order is the best way to read the books for the first time if you are brand new to the series.
However, if you have previously read this series and are looking for a new way to experience the story, there is another way you can read these books. That is because the fourth book in publication order is actually a prequel novel of sorts. Therefore, if you are looking to read the Inspector Lynley books in chronological order, begin with A Suitable Vengeance, and then proceed with the rest of the books.
- A Great Deliverance (1988)
- Payment in Blood (1989)
- Well-Schooled in Murder (1990)
- A Suitable Vengeance (1991)
- For the Sake of Elena (1992)
- Missing Joseph (1992)
- Playing for the Ashes (1993)
- In the Presence of the Enemy (1996)
- Deception on His Mind (1997)
- In Pursuit of the Proper Sinner (1999)
- A Traitor to Memory (2001)
- A Place of Hiding (2003)
- With No One as Witness (2005)
- What Came Before He Shot Her (2006)
- Careless in Red (2008)
- This Body of Death (2010)
- Believing the Lie (2012)
- Just One Evil Act (2013)
- A Banquet of Consequences (2015)
- The Punishment She Deserves (2018)
- Something to Hide (2022)
Whidbey Island Saga
- The Edge of Nowhere (2012)
- The Edge of the Water (2014)
- The Edge of the Shadows (2015)
- The Edge of the Light (2016)
Elizabeth George Non-Fiction Books in Order
- Write Away: One Novelist’s Approach to Fiction and the Writing Life (2004)
- Mastering the Process (2020)
- A Girl’s Guide to Studying Her Bible (Expected: June 6, 2023)
Elizabeth George Anthologies
- Sisters in Crime 2 (1990)
- Crime from the Mind of a Woman (2001)
- A Moment on the Edge: 100 Years of Crime Stories by Women (2001)
- Two of the Deadliest (2009)
- Hotel Angeline (2011)
Elizabeth George Short Story Collections
- The Evidence Exposed (1999)
- I, Richard (2001)
Summary of Inspector Lynley Series
It is very important to read these Elizabeth George books in order, even though the books are successful as standalone narratives with their own ingenious plots and storylines.
However, if character development is important to you, you do want to read these Elizabeth George books in order. This also holds particularly true for understanding the changes that occur in Lynley and Havers lives and how that affects their behavior and the course of the overall storyline.
If you haven’t read this series before, take caution in proceeding as some of the book summaries below will spoil events from previous books.
1. A Great Deliverance
The setting for a particularly brutal murder is pastoral Keldale, a village on the unspoiled North Yorkshire Moors. Farmer William Teys is found beheaded in his old stone barn.
Alongside his headless corpse sits his large and homely daughter: Roberta Teys. She is wearing her best dress and she has an axe on her lap. She says she did it and she’s not sorry.
Aristocratic Inspector Thomas Lynley and redoubtable Sergeant Barbara Havers from Scotland Yard are investigating the murder. As they do so, dark family secrets come to light.
The guilt of Teys’s daughter Roberta, though she confessed, comes under question. Then further scandals, crimes and revelations come to light that will possibly also impact their own lives.
2. Payment in Blood
Playwright Joy Sinclair dies on an isolated estate set in the rugged Scottish Highlands when someone drives an 18-inch dirk into her neck. Peer-of-the-realm Detective Inspector Thomas Lynley and his partner, blunt and no-nonsense Detective Sergeant Barbara Havers, investigate though they have little or no jurisdiction here. The suspects soon include one of Britain’s premier actresses, a successful theatrical producer, and Lady Helen Clyde — the woman Lynley is in love with.
So Lynley and Havers have to navigate a very circumspect path through a tangle of complex human relationships, as they explore a case rooted in some very dark corners of the past.
3. Well-Schooled in Murder
Thomas Lynley gets a call for help from an old friend who is now a housemaster at Bredgar Chambers, a leading public school in West Sussex. A 13-year-old schoolboy, Matthew Whately, has gone missing.
So aristocratic Inspector Lynley, his partner, Detective Sergeant Barbara Havers, and former forensic scientist, Simon Allcourt-St. James, find themselves drawn into the search for a child. Tragically, the case soon escalates into a search for a child killer.
As they investigate, Lynley and Havers soon discover that something suspicious is playing out behind Bredgar Chambers’s privileged walls. But can they prevent another murder?
4. A Suitable Vengeance
Detective Inspector Thomas Lynley, the 8th Earl of Asherton, has brought Lady Helen Clyde to Howenstow, his family home, as he has asked her to marry him. They are accompanied by Lynley’s old friend, forensic scientist Simon Allcourt-St. James. Then the brutal murder of a local journalist shatters the calm of the lovely Cornwall village.
It also embroils Lynley and St. James in a case that is outside their jurisdiction, and uncomfortably close to home. When a second death occurs, Lynley has to start taking the case personally as the evidence seems to point to a perpetrator inside his own family.
5. For the Sake of Elena
Raised by a single mother after her father left when she was five, Elena Weaver is beautiful, venturesome, and emotionally compromised. She is also deaf, and a student at St. Stephen’s College, Cambridge. Each person who knew her has a different opinion of her personality and character.
Her father, Anthony Weaver, a prominent academic at the university, is trying to restore their relationship. Elena resents him, and is in turn resented by his second wife of 10 years: Justine. And then Elena is bludgeoned to death one foggy morning on her regular run.
As Inspector Thomas Lynley and troubled DS Barbara launch their investigation in the exclusive environs of Cambridge University, the true identity of Elena Weaver consistently eludes them.
6. Missing Joseph
Simon St. James and his wife, Deborah, hope to heal their marriage by talking to the vicar of Winslough, whom Deborah previously found wise and compassionate. But when they arrive at Winslough, Vicar Robin Sage is dead, apparently a victim of accidental poisoning.
They don’t agree with the “Death by Misadventure” ruling arrived at by the inquest. They also find the close relationship between the woman who served the vicar his last lethal meal and the investigating constable, disquieting.
So Simon calls on his trusted friend, Detective Inspector Thomas Lynley to help. As they investigate, they try to find answers among the tangled relationships in the village.
These include the relationship between a widowed constable and a housekeeper who dabbles in the occult. The relationships between reclusive herbalist Juliet Spence and her pubescent daughter, and that between an unwilling bridegroom and his wealthy, indulged wife. Even the one between the vicar himself and his flock.
7. Playing for the Ashes
When Martin Snell delivers milk to Gabriella Patten’s cottage one sunny April morning, he notices a blackened armchair and smoke-stained walls and calls the police. The body, however, isn’t Gabriella Patten. It is Kenneth Fleming, England’s star batsman, who’s died of asphyxiation.
When Scotland Yard answers the call and Inspector Lynley and DS Havers start investigating, they find a veritable plethora of suspects, including Gabriella herself and Kenneth Fleming’s teenaged son.
8. In the Presence of the Enemy
Tabloid editor Dennis Luxford must admit publicly that kidnapped 10-year-old Charlotte Bowen is his daughter, or she will die. But revealing Charlotte’s paternity will tell his beautiful wife and beloved son that he’s been living a lie for ten years.
The career and reputation of Charlotte’s mother are also at stake. And Eve Bowen is a high-profile Junior Minister and Undersecretary of State for the Home Office. So she won’t allow any public revelations.
But then a tragedy occurs and New Scotland Yard becomes involved. Detective Inspector Thomas Lynley discovers the case reaches from London far into the countryside. His partner, tenacious DS Barbara Havers, works part of the case on her own, and she is getting closer to the grim resolution, and danger, than anyone realizes.
9. Deception on His Mind
Detective Sergeant Barbara Havers has to investigate the murder of the wealthy Haytham Querashi in coastal Essex. He is found near the beach of the sleepy coastal town of Balford-le-Nez with his neck broken, and the murder triggers a race riot.
Working alone, without long-time partner Detective Inspector Thomas Lynley, Havers must try to delve into the mind of a murderer.
10. In Pursuit of the Proper Sinner
The bodies of a young man and young woman are discovered in the ancient stone circle of Nine Sisters Henge on Calder Moor. Both died violently, but in different ways.
Detective Inspector Thomas Lynley realizes the grim crime is going to be difficult to solve. Nicola Maiden was the daughter of a man Lynley once regarded as a mentor. He was a former officer in a select undercover team.
In London, recently demoted Barbara Havers, intent on redeeming herself, combs the city for information on the second murder victim. Yet the more secrets they unearth, the more they realize that neither of the victims are what they appeared to be.
11. A Traitor to Memory
Eugenie Davies is killed by a car on a dark and rain-drenched London street in what is clearly no accident. But what brought her to London, with the name of the man who actually finds her body, on her? Could her murder possibly have some bizarre connection to the fact that her 28-year-old estranged son and musical prodigy inexplicably lost his ability to play the violin recently?
Assigned to investigate by Superintendent Malcolm Webberly, Lynley is amazed to learn that Webberly’s first murder case as a young DI 20 years before involved Eugenie Davies and a sensational child-killing trial. Lynley tries to find Eugenie Davies’s killer, while at the same time trying to safeguard the careers of colleagues Barbara Havers and Winston Nkata as the dreadful truth behind an appalling crime threatens to swamp them all.
12. A Place of Hiding
Guy Brouard, a benefactor and one of Guernsey’s richest inhabitants, dies on an isolated beach. Brouard was working on a museum to honor those who resisted the German occupation of Guernsey during World War II. Does his murderer hail from this period?
But others on Guernsey may have wanted Guy Brouard dead: Wives, business associates, underprivileged teenagers he was mentoring, or even his current mistress.
As everybody involved gathers for the will to be read, Deborah and Simon St. James discover that just about everybody on the history-bedeviled island is hiding some secret.
13. With No One as Witness
A possible serial killer has Scotland Yard scrambling to catch a homicidal maniac whilst avoiding being accused of racism. Detective Superintendent Thomas Lynley, somewhat distracted by his wife Helen being pregnant, is investigating with Barbara Havers, who is fighting for her career. Winston Nkata, deservedly promoted to detective sergeant, will be the face to speak to the media.
But not one of them fully understands the single-mindedness and resourcefulness of the killer they are hunting. And nobody is ready for the brutal instant that will change Lynley’s life forever.
14. What Came Before He Shot Her
The death of Inspector Thomas Lynley’s wife has stunned Scotland Yard. Unbelievably, it would seem that the shooter was a 12-year-old boy.
The story begins across London in North Kensington, where the three mixed-race and virtually orphaned Campbell children are shuffled from grandmother to aunt.
Fifteen-year-old Ness is clearly headed for trouble, leaving only Joel to care for the youngest child, Toby. Something is clearly wrong with Toby, and Joel is being harassed by a local gang. To protect his family, Joel enters into a pact with the devil, which leads devastatingly to Thomas Lynley’s doorstep.
15. Careless in Red
After the senseless murder of his wife pregnant wife Helen, Lynley is in Cornwall. He intends to hike the full length of Cornwall’s rugged South-West Coast Path.
But six weeks into his walk he discovers the body of a young man who has apparently fallen down a cliff to his death, so Lynley reports the death. Bearded and unwashed after six weeks of living rough, he initially finds himself a suspect.
Howver, then he is co-opted into the investigation by DI Bea Hannaford of the understaffed local police department. She feels she can use him to find out more about possible other suspects, like secretive Daidre Trehair who owns the cottage close to where the body was found. Trehair seems to be hiding something, but is she guilty of murder?
In fact, it soon becomes clear that a very clever killer is at work.
Elizabeth George’s books are highly literate and thought-provoking. They challenge readers to examine their own preconceptions as they shine the clear light of George’s intellect on issues like social, gender, and racial inequalities, as well as love, loss, and responsibility.
Have you read the Elizabeth George books in order? If so, tell us which one is your favorite below.
Looking for more books in order?
Check out this list of the Louise Penny books in order.
I have read all of Elizabeth George’s books, praying that at 96 I can read these last books. One part of me is early American, but I grew up in my English working class famil’y home outside of Boston. My mother and her family were all born in England. Your books brought England home to me and I spent many a holiday, thanks to generous cousins. I’d go back in the blink of an eye!!!