In this, the 8th installment of the Duncan Kincaid/Gemma James series, Gemma has just assumed her new role of Inspector at the Notting Hill station when the wife of a prominent antiques dealer is found murdered outside their home. Unfortunately, the manner of death looks very similar to an unsolved case of Duncan's, so before she knows it, he is working with her on the combined case -- both blessing and curse.
As always in Crombie's writing, the case is full of well-drawn, three-dimensional characters who have complex, intertwined lives that it takes a while to figure out. But this time there's a wrinkle: Duncan has arranged for himself and Gemma to sublease a house in Notting Hill, thus combining their two families and moving forward in their life together. But that means that the interesting characters in this case are not just suspects and persons of interest – they are their new neighbors, people with whom they will need to interact over the long haul.
I found this case particularly intriguing. It involves a very complex back story that slowly unfolds, and even though it is complex, it is believably so. I didn't figure out “who dunnit” until the big reveal, and as tends to happen when characters are well written, by the end my heart ached for many of them – so much suffering for events that transpired literally a lifetime before.
At this point I want to discuss another big part of the ongoing subplot of the title characters' life, so I'm issuing a SPOILER ALERT. Don't read on if you don't want to know the next major plot twist in Duncan and Gemma's life together. Just stop here with my recommendation that this is definitely a book worth reading.
Seriously, I mean you – don't just peek at the beginning of the next sentence unless you want to know!
At the end of the last book, we learned that Gemma was pregnant. Throughout this book she comes to terms with that reality. It is the catalyst that leads to Duncan and Gemma combining households (that plus the fact that Kit finally comes to live with Duncan full-time) and it impacts her work relationships and pretty much everything. But in the final pages of the book, Gemma loses the baby. I think that this was a wise choice on Crombie's part. The introduction of the pregnancy allowed her to break through Gemma's stubborn reserve and accept moving in together much sooner and more easily than would have been plausible. It made a lot of good things come together in this one book. But realistically, having the baby would have been really, really challenging to incorporate into future stories. I know that brave policewomen everywhere DO go back to work and put their lives on the line again with an infant at home – but I think having Gemma do so would have fundamentally changed the flavor of this series. The choice that was made is a better one, and it set the stage for the many good things to come.