In the latest installment of her Duncan Kincaid/Gemma Jones series, Texas author Deborah Crombie’s love and affinity for England once again shine through.
Detective Inspector Gemma Jones is finally very married to Detective Superintendent Duncan Kincaid, and their blended family is adjusting to its newest member. Crombie skillfully weaves the tapestry of their lives into the investigation of their latest case.
Preparing to trade Gemma’s domestic leave to take his own turn, Duncan finds himself at the last minute involved in a murder investigation filled with far-reaching tendrils, as the victim was a detective with the Metropolitan Police and an Olympic-grade rower. A subplot includes a high-ranking predatory policeman which complicates his investigation at every turn.
Becca Meredith is a solitary and competitive rower, hoping to regain her footing in a controversial bid for a place on the Olympic team. Her dreams are ended when a training row ends with her being tipped from her scull and drowning in the Thames River near Henley. Her lover, Kieran Connolly, struggles with post-war injuries. Part of the volunteer K9 search and rescue team with his Labrador Retriever, Finn, he is among the first to find Becca’s body, caught near the downstream weir near Mill End.
When the mysterious drowning becomes Duncan’s case, his team investigates Becca’s past, including her rowing for Oxford Blue, and her ex-husband, a former rower. It quickly becomes obvious that Becca’s talented but difficult personality has led her to acquire many admirers and just as many enemies. Complicating matters is a politically fraught work situation that will spill over into a separate investigation Gemma has gotten entangled with just as her family leave is ending, and this widens the list of suspects for both detectives.
Then Kieran is targeted in a horrid accident, it becomes obvious that there is a killer who needs to silence people and it’s up to Duncan to stop him before he can kill again.
Rooted in reality, Crombie’s endpapers on the hard-covered books contain a lovely hand-drawn map by Laura Maestro of the area, which goes a long way to helping readers unfamiliar with the area visualize the main places of the action. The descriptions and feel of The Leander Club, a revered Henley rowing club, as well as the grueling routine of an elite rower, add to the pleasure. One of the hallmarks of Crombie’s books is the way she brings to life pockets of the UK we readers vicariously come to know, and the clubby, status-conscious world of Oxford rowing blends well with the routines of the K9 rescue team and their dogs.