Book review: Deborah Crombie keeps married detectives' story vivid
Taking for granted the quality of a suspense series is easy, especially after 15 books. When a writer produces that many novels with strong procedural elements, expert characterization and a powerful sense of place, we tend to assume she will continue in that vein.
Sadly, that's not always the case, but Deborah Crombie never falters. Her novels are a delight, and with “The Sound of Broken Glass,” she keeps her impressive creative streak intact.
A Texan who writes about Great Britain — she has lived in England and Scotland — Crombie started this series about London police detectives Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James 20 years ago, entwining details of their lives with well-constructed, evocative mysteries and fascinating glimpses of the great city itself. Here she sets her story in Crystal Palace, the neighborhood that grew around a cast-iron and glass building erected in Hyde Park for the Great Exhibition of 1851 and destroyed by fire in 1936.
When Crombie introduced them, Duncan and Gemma were work partners whose attraction grew too strong to ignore. Now, they're married with three kids (his, hers and a newly adopted daughter). Duncan is taking his turn at stay-at-home parenting — their daughter, Charlotte, is struggling to adjust to school — while Gemma returns to the job.
Her first case? A barrister is found naked, tied up and dead in a sleazy Crystal Palace hotel. Gemma and her sidekick, Detective Sgt. Melody Talbot, set out to investigate, but when an acquaintance of Duncan and Gemma's turns out to be linked to the case, Duncan finds himself unofficially involved, his Mr. Mom duties interrupted.
Crombie's novels often examine how the past influences the present, which dovetails nicely with her depiction of London as a city in which history still lives and breathes. Here, alongside the present-day case work, she teases out the story of a lonely, music-loving teenage boy growing up in Crystal Palace with an alcoholic mother. He's befriended by a neighbor but runs afoul of a couple of bad seeds whose actions will have repercussions. Even when characters appear only in one or two books, Crombie fleshes them out with substance and skill.
And even as the body count rises, Crombie makes the domestic crises of a busy family as compelling as the whodunit; Duncan and Gemma disprove the usual wisdom that once you get the lovers together, they're no longer interesting. In Crombie's sure hands, they remain the heart and soul of this entertaining series.
Connie Ogle is a staff writer for the Miami Herald.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Review: ‘Finders Keepers’ recalls ‘Misery’ as Stephen King torments a reader
- Review: A real ‘Shepherd’s Life’ proves a hit in print, online
- Review: Sarah Lotz’s ‘Day Four’ sends a cruise adrift in supernatural waters
- Pitt writer’s ‘Eighty Days’ began as college paper
- Review: New Edna O’Brien story anthology spans 5 decades of author’s work