Monday, January 20, 2014

All Shall Be Well by Deborah Crombie

Today I finished All Shall Be Well, the second in the Kincaid and James mystery series by Deborah Crombie.  I'm re-reading this series as part of a reading challenge at  I have already read and loved this entire series, so I considered this challenge a fun opportunity to enjoy them again and post reviews.

Having the perspective knowing how these characters will grow and change and how their lives will evolve, re-reading these early books gives me great respect for the way this author balances the mystery that is the current book with the slow, methodical development of the main characters in the background.  She very cleverly sets the central mystery of this one in the apartment house where Duncan Kincaid lives, providing an easy way to pull in more of his personal life without detracting from the main story.  Similarly, there are just a few scenes that involve Gemma James away from work, but they serve to flesh out her character a lot, too. It makes me wonder, idly, whether Crombie actually wrote them with an eye to a long-term story, thus taking her time with it, or whether at the beginning she just put in some background to add depth to the characters, and only after the books succeeded did she begin to chart a longer-term course for their lives. Either way, it works very well, proceeding at a wonderfully lifelike, unhurried pace.

The mystery itself is engaging and the characters involved in it feel very three-dimensional and real. I particularly enjoyed the fact that the least likable character, the obvious choice for the murder, ended up being guilty of nothing worse than being a bad human being, and that some of the other characters clearly grew within the course of the story, ending up stronger people than when the story began. The ultimate resolution is completely plausible and heart-wrenchingly sad.  My only tiny complaint was that, at the end, when Duncan got his flash of insight and "the pieces snicked into place in his mind with blinding clarity,"  I didn't feel like the author had given us quite enough information to have had the opportunity to have the same "snick into place." But it is possible, of course, that she did and this reader just wasn't perceptive enough to pick them up -- even on a second reading!  (Though separated by many years from the first reading.)  

I have already picked up Leave the Grave Green, the next book in the series, and will probably start it today, though looking at my calendar I can see it might be a while before I can spend any time on it.  Oh well, at least I have it to look forward to when time allows!

Friday, January 03, 2014

A Share in Death by Deborah Crombie

I just finished re-reading A Share In Death, the first in the Kincaid and James mystery series by Deborah Crombie. As I mentioned earlier, I have read all 15 of these books, but am re-reading them in 2014 as part of a reading challenge at They have this cool graphic for the challenge:

What a delight this was!  Trying to avoid spoilers here, suffice it to say I have seen these officers' back stories grow through substantial twists and turns over the 15 books. It is a strange feeling now to go back and interact with them in this initial foray.  The characters were consistent with who they become over the life of the series, but there was very little foreshadowing of the direction their lives would take and how strong and effective their partnership would become.  Indeed, this first book is substantially about Duncan Kincaid, with Gemma Jones playing a very secondary role.

The book also stands perfectly well as a free-standing mystery.  Like many cozies, this one is set at a British country timeshare, (OK, the convention used to be a British country house, but timeshare makes it feel modern) where you naturally have a bunch of seemingly unrelated characters meeting for the first time and revealing little secrets about their workaday lives.  And it follows the rather standard mystery formula (which I love) of having the first murder occur quickly -- in this case, at the end of the third chapter.  Then it's a pleasant exercise in character development, clue-sorting, and logic, with a few well-placed red herrings.  By the end of the book the mystery solution was plausible enough to satisfy but creative enough to surprise, and the characters so well rounded that I actually cared what happened to them after I closed the book.

I can't wait to begin All Shall Be Well, the next in the series!