I have grown eager to read more mysteries. The premise to read Something to Hide by Elizabeth George was enticing; in her words, Elizabeth George tells us what the novel is about in its bold layers as this is the 21st novel in the Lynley mystery series.
CW: Female genital mutilation, murder
I also asked Elizabeth about researching sensitive topics, infidelity, and what keeps her coming back to Thomas Lynley as a character.
Interview with Elizabeth George:
What is your definition of feminism?
Feminism is about recognizing and owning your power not only as a woman but as an individual. It is about owning my own power, having boundaries, and stating what my boundaries are, and believing I have the right to my own body, my own life, my own thoughts, and my own boundaries.
Please tell us what Something to Hide is about.
Something to Hide is about a number of things. The death of a policewoman who is found unconscious in her flat and has to be taken to the hospital and ultimately life support is shut off. On the autopsy, it is revealed that her skull was fractured not in a way that is noticeable to people. What she had was a subdural hematoma. That was what killed her. Discovering that is what sets the ball in motion that she was murdered or someone struck her. The book is also about a female issue and abuse of women that is afflicted upon their body for the cause of making them attractive to men to marry them because of this physical thing that has happened to them. So the book explores that, the crime, and women owning their body, do have power, and owning it.
What research did you do and what voice did you want to give to this group of women?
I learned this was still going on through an international lawyer who was working on the project to end this with the Metropolitan Police in London. I knew it was outlawed in London and many countries. I knew airports had been alerted the coming and going of people in their own country and the police knew what to look for, to stop people from leaving the country to have this done or returning with a young girl to whom it had been done. There are interviews online of women who tell their story and there are the pros of this and there are the cons. Because the position of women is so subservient to men puts emphasis on women to get married, have babies, and shut up, that was something I wanted to explore.
There are a plethora of characters in a short amount of time. What was your process for story and character development?
It was the same process that I always use. Once I know the killer, the victim, the motive, then the underpinnings of the story that I’m going to be exploring and I peephole them and the tangential characters. Once I make a list of characters, then I make them living, breathing people. As I create these characters, then I begin to see different elements of the plot. I also see what the theme of the book is going to be.
This is your 21st book in the Lynley mystery series. What keeps you coming back to this character?
I love reading a series. I decided that these characters would not exist in a vacuum, that they would come from families who have a story. Thomas Lynley has a brother and a sister. The brother is in and out of rehab for drugs. Everyone has something in their life besides solving crimes. Thomas Lynley is also not in all of my books. He may have a cameo as in A Place of Hiding.
Infidelity has an interesting perspective in the novel. What are your thoughts on desire and love, especially as you developed the story?
What an interesting question. The story reflects the difference between desire and love and in all cases it shows a relationship can be derailed by both of those things, and illicit desires for another human being. Thomas Lynley, in the course of the novel, he loves this woman and becomes involved with and he ends up derailing their entire relationship out of what he sees as his love for her. Their love and desire can be extremely destructive as at the same time they can be uplifting and constructive.
Tani and Abeo were fascinating characters. I noticed the generational, cultural, and gender differences and thoughts between them. What did you want to say about those differences and thoughts?
Abeo’s relationship with his family is based on his perception of power and his wielding of that power, and the destructive nature of his wielding of that power. He is also an incredible hypocrite, which makes him a rather disturbing character. On one hand he believes in “x” but his actions show “y.” He is this person that unless he has control, he is not a particularly good person to be around. Tani is coming into his own as a young man. He does not want to be controlled by his father to determine his future, which Abeo is absolutely going to do. Abeo has purchased a bride for him, a price of six cows for a virgin young lady. Tani has no say in it but he decides to have a say in it and that begins a fissure in their relationship. As Abeo continues to control the people in his life, they try not to be controlled by him.
Is there anything else you would like to say about the novel?
I hope the novel provides thought-provoking narrative at the same time as it provides an entertaining escape. It is a bleak subject matter but I don’t think the novel is bleak. I think the novel has areas of lightness and areas of amusement.
Thank you, Elizabeth George, for sharing your story SOMETHING TO HIDE with Feminist Book Club!