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Elizabeth George continues her superb exploration of the theme of how love affects us in this engrossing police procedural. For once, she balances her powerful character-development skills with an intriguing plot to explore an intriguing mystery. This is the work of a master with all her talents fully on display.

The title refers to the UK-Australian cricket rivalry. If you don't know cricket, relax. Although cricket is part of the book's backdrop, you don't need to know anything about it to enjoy the book.

The stage is set when the UK's foremost cricket batsman, Kenneth Fleming, is found dead in a country cottage, the apparent victim of an arson-based fire. But he seems misplaced. The man was supposed to be in Greece with his elder son. What's going on?

Thomas Lynley and Barbara Havers face their toughest case yet as they probe the causes of the celebrity death while the tabloid headlines scream their usual exaggerated fare. There are plenty of clues . . . but they don't tie into any particular suspect . . . and the usual suspects all have alibis. How will they solve the case?

For me, the biggest appeal of this book is its broad look at attraction, parental love, romantic love, marital love, love among friends and love for our fellow creatures. She also does a remarkable job of exploring the hate and cruelty that come through the dark side of love. Ms. George takes the position that we are bound to be ensnared in harmful ways by all of these loving feelings, but that we wouldn't be human if we weren't. Our challenge: To do the right thing whenever enough passion cools its grip enough to allow us to function somewhat rationally.

Most of the attention is on characters who only appear in this book. The main development of the continuing characters comes as Lynley tries again to persuade Lady Helen to marry him. Barbara Havers begins to adjust to her new home and feels guilty about not visiting her mother as often as she should. If continuity from one book to another is important to you, you will probably find less here than you wanted.

Those who will be disappointed with this book will be fans of For the Sake of Elena who wanted to see another fascinating victim. Fleming is a complex character, but one who falls well below Elena in terms of his inherent ability to attract a reader's interest. But this book certainly does have more than its share of richly complex characters, especially in Olivia, who provides much of the book's narration.
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am 7. November 1999
With this addition George's series takes up residence in your soul as well as your heart. If you're a new reader, start with A Great Deliverance, rather than the prequel, A Suitable Vengeance. You don't have to read them in order, but it's a good idea. In this book (like the last, Deception On His Mind), it is not Lynley and his friends who provide counterpoint to the mystery. As much as we like them, this is not a bad thing, although it may account for the seemingly slow start. But the several interwoven stories require no familiar backdrop. Once you're engaged, Olivia's tale brings enough beauty, mystery and pathos to etch her story into your soul. Read the other reviews. Even better, read the book.
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am 5. Januar 2000
No one plots as well as Elizabeth George and her books are worth every penny for that alone. With the execption of Barbara Havers, though, I just don't like her characters and find them more than a little unbelievable. (I can usually overlook this, however, because the basic story is so darn good.) With this book, however, Ms. George veers into the wierd and the absurd. Olivia was so very disgusting that I could barely finish the book despite the engaging plot. George did do a fabulous job of intertwining the two stories but Olivia was just too much of a freak to feel any empathy for her or for her plight. Frankly, I wished she'd just drop dead. Olivia, that is. I'm probably one of the least prudish persons in the world, but there are things I prefer not to read about in an otherwise first-rate mystery. The softening of Olivia would have done a lot to improve this book and render it a true classic. I wish Ms. George would leave the sexually explicit themes to others, but I'll keep reading--her plots are simply the best.
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Obwohl ich Lynley/Havers-Fan bin, wurde ich mit Playing for the Ashes nicht ganz warm und es konnte mich leider nicht wirklich fesseln.
Das Mordmotiv ist einfach und glaubwürdig, die Art, wie der Täter am Ende doch noch seines Verbrechens überführt werden kann, ist sehr raffiniert erdacht und erzeugt (zumindest bei mir, die ich mich immer überraschen lasse) am Ende den gewünschten Aha-Effekt und auch die Tatsache, dass Teile des Buches von der Protagonistin Olivia aus der Ich-Perspektive erzählt werden, ist mal etwas Anderes.
Trotzdem: Olivias Erinnerungen erschienen mir oft unnötig langatmig und detailliert, Lynleys selbstquälersiche Gedanken über den Stand seiner Beziehung zu Lady Helen waren mir eine Spur zu ausführlich und wie so oft bei George erscheinen mir die Charaktere etwas zu typisch gezeichnet. Dem Buch, obwohl insgesamt stimmig und auch durchaus spannend, fehlt einfach der Biss.
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am 17. April 2012
Der erste Lynley/Havers-Krimi, bei dem ich mich von einer Seite zur nächsten gequält habe, und mit Enttäuschung feststellen musste, dass es auch im letzten Drittel nicht spannend wird. Die Charaktere haben mich nicht gefesselt, und die Beweggründe für das Handeln der verschiedenen Hauptpersonen konnte ich nur schwer nachvollziehen.

Auch die Story fand ich nicht wirklich überzeugend. Und die langatmige Art, wie über Kapitel hinweg nur Olivias Monologe ausgebreitet werden - zum Schluss hab ich da nur noch drüber hinweggeblättert. Für mich der absolute Low Point unter den Büchern von Elizabeth George.
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am 24. Dezember 2007
But was it REALLY perfect? Sophisticated Inspector Lynley and his rough-edged sidekick Havers discover all the hows and whys in Elizabeth George's PLAYING FOR THE ASHES. Should the athlete have left his wife? Could his teenaged son be involved? Did his mistress cause his death or was it her husband? And what part did his former teacher play, a woman who had been championing him since he was a young man? George keeps us guessing with style, presenting suspect after suspect and discarding them. Played out against the usual backdrop of Great Britain's social contrasts, PLAYING FOR ASHES offers an entertaining, if somewhat lengthy, read. The returning characters of the butler Denton, Lady Helen, and the entire crew at New Scotland Yard are touched upon less frequently than usual. Denton, in particular, seems to be included more for comic effect this time around. George's technique of interspersing first person 'journal' entries from the character Olivia, a sad and depressing former prostitute, really did not add to the book!! I'd also recommend reading Tino georgiou's bestselling novel--The Fates--if you haven't yet!
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am 17. August 1996
I have been a mystery reader for decades, and have probably read close to a thousand mystery novels. This is probably the best of them. George manages to delve into relationships between husbands and wives, parents and children, professional colleagues, and various other combinations, with a penetrating and sympathetic insight. The mystery itself is not the most complex or difficult case that I have ever read about, but it is more than enough to keep the reader guessing and interested. The sheer beauty of George's writing is incomparable in the mystery field, but then anyone who has read one of her novels already knows that. It has become a cliche to praise a mystery novel by saying that it could stand on its own as a wonderful novel even without the mystery element, but this time the cliche is absolutely true
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am 10. Februar 1999
This is the third George book I have read and I can certainly say that I did not come away disappointed. There are two story lines which, while related slightly, are played out at the same time and that always gets a little confusing to me. And she throws in some "in your face" smut, not that it's not realistic--it's just a little more than I care for, and also continues the development of Barbara Havers character in a kind of mini story of it's own. I found it a little slow in places and while I don't think it is necessarily better than her other books I've read ("Missing Joseph", "Well Schooled in Murder"), her remarkable talent is establishing her as one of the premier mystery writers of our time.
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am 23. November 1996
The greatest mystery in this novel revolves around the paradoxical nature of love in all its various shapes, whether between parent and child, husband and wife, lovers or friends. Why do we love someone? What do we do in the name of that love? Where does love begin and end? When should we let it go? When should we hold on? As Detective Inspector Thomas Lynley and Sergeant Barbara Havers investigate the murder of a prominent cricket player, they uncover a series of relationships which either contributed to the murder itself or make it more difficult to uncover the truth. This novel, the best of the series so far, will fascinate any reader interested in the mysteries of human behavior
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am 11. Juni 1997
Elizabeth George is the poetess of detective writers!! This book takes a differenet turn than the previous ones though. Whereas the others are almost puritanical in their expression (A Great Deliverance had only two curse words tha I remember) this one explores a seamy side with
stunning effect.

E George is the absolute master of integrating
disparate, seemingly unrelated events into a single coherent story while developing the most realistic characters in fiction. The clues are
always present, the motives once again are
deep, psychological, and the conclusion the startling yet perfectly logical wrapup we've come
to expect. This is a dark, brooding tour de force
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