Elizabeth George

For the Sake of Elena

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For the Sake of Elena Summary

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For the Sake of Elena (1992), a mystery novel by American author Elizabeth George, is the fifth book in George’s Inspector Lynley series. Set in London, For the Sake of Elena follows Inspector Thomas “Tommy” Lynley as he investigates the murder of a beautiful deaf college student. In 2002, an episode of BBC‘s The Inspector Lynley Mysteries aired an episode based on For the Sake of Elena.

Elena Weaver is a beautiful, adventurous, and emotionally troubled deaf student at St. Stephen’s College, a part of Cambridge University. At six a.m., Elena wakes up after a night of drinking and sex to go for a run. She usually runs with a female companion, but on this morning, the unidentified woman doesn’t arrive, and Elena runs alone. While running, she thinks about her father, Anthony Weaver, whom she deeply resents. Anthony is a prestigious history professor and a powerful figure at Cambridge University. When Elena was five-years-old, Anthony left her mother, Glyn, who raised Elena on her own. With Elena now at Cambridge, Anthony hopes to reconnect with Elena to make up for his absence during her upbringing. Anthony’s fixation on reconnecting with Elena annoys his second wife, Justine, to whom he has been married for ten years.

Through the thick morning fog, Elena sees two figures before her on the running path. As one of the figures moves away, Elena stumbles over an old coat filled with rags. At that moment, an unknown assailant attacks and bludgeons her to death.

When Elena’s body is discovered, Scotland Yard assigns Inspector Thomas “Tommy” Lynley to the case. An extraordinarily tidy and polished man, Lynley belongs to a long line of hereditary nobles. He even has an official title: the eighth Earl of Asherton. Under normal circumstances, Lynley would be annoyed to have to travel to Cambridge for a case. Nevertheless, he is happy to do so because that is where Lady Helen Clyde currently lives, the woman he has been in love with for many years. At the moment, she is staying with her sister Penelope. While investigating Elena’s murder, Lynley hopes to reignite the spark with Lady Helen, who spurned his marriage proposal some time ago.

Lynley’s noble birth and attitude are in sharp contrast to the personality and heritage of his long-time partner, Sergeant Barbara Havers, who comes from a working-class background. Havers finds it impossible to care for her elderly mother who suffers from Alzheimer’s and severe dementia. After hiring a series of ill-suited caretakers, Havers must make a decision about whether she can bear to put her mother in a nursing home.

As Lynley and Havers interview various students and faculty on campus, they realize there is a definite in-crowd and out-crowd. It is difficult for Lynley to get any straight answers because everyone they interview harbors resentments against one another. There are also conflicts within the local Cambridge police department that threaten to derail the investigation.

After conducting campus interviews, Lynley and Havers travel to Grantchester, a tiny village a couple of miles south of Cambridge. There, they interview Sarah Gordon, the woman who discovered Elena’s body. Sarah is a respected and accomplished painter who, nevertheless, hasn’t created any new work for months. Despite the fact that she has no direct connection with the victim, Lynley and Havers sense that she is hiding something.

Meanwhile, another bad experience with a caretaker causes Havers to make up her mind about putting her Alzheimer’s-afflicted mother in a home. Eventually, she tearfully drops her mother off at an elderly asylum.

It is later disclosed that Elena had had an affair with Professor Victor Troughton, one of her father’s rivals at the university. Troughton wanted to marry Elena, but he says Elena only had sex with him as a way to get back at her father. Meanwhile, it is revealed that Anthony was having an affair with Sarah Gordon, the painter who discovered Elena’s body. Lynley and Havers soon uncover Sarah’s motive for murdering Elena. When Justine found out about Anthony’s affair, she forced him to vandalize a painting Sarah created for him. Considering the painting her greatest work, her child even, Sarah figured the best way to get back at Anthony was to murder his child, Elena.

For the Sake of Elena is a strong entry into the modern detective canon with an ending most readers will not predict.