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 http://litlequeenrules.blogspot.com. 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!