One of the issues with writing a series where the main protagonists have conquered their romantic fear and plunged into a committed relationship is worrying if there will continue to be the same chemistry for readers to enjoy.
Deborah Crombie has successfully conquered this in her series featuring London detectives Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James, married and raising a blended family. In her 16th outing, To Dwell in Darkness, she shows how it’d done: by creating a mystery plot that has tendrils that reach out into other areas, and by portraying the detectives family life with a sense of reality that keeps readers reaching for her books time and again.
Raising young children with parents who are detectives is always a juggling act, and readers see how Kincaid and James handle those demands that crop up in family life, whether it’s the disposition of suddenly acquired kittens or a young teen needing to clarify a house rule about letting strangers into their home.
The action this time centers around a small group of eco-protestors who live together and have decided to carry on a protest inside St. Pancras Station as a crowd gathers for a musical concert. Gemma’s sergeant, Melody Talbot, arrives at the event to watch her boyfriend, Andy Monahan, and his musical companion open the event. Both young musicians’ agents are in attendance when a sudden explosion changes everything.
A man is on fire, burned beyond recognition by what appears to be a bomb and turns out to a phosphorus charge. The results are horrific: besides the charred body of the dead man, Andy’s agent, Tam, suffers burns to his trunk. When Melody rushes to try to put out the fire, she’s momentarily aided by a distraught man who suddenly disappears. And her own respiratory system is affected by the bomb.
Duncan Kincaid will be the senior investigating officer on this case, his first after an unexpected transfer takes him from Scotland Yard to head a new murder team out of Holborn Station. He still questions the move and his one ally higher up the channels has taken a sudden leave and is unavailable. It feels like a demotion, without explanation, and Kincaid must adjust to his new team and how they work together–or don’t.
When it’s determined from the protestors that the dead man is indeed from their group, but was supposed to set off only a smoke bomb, Kincaid must investigate how the bomb was switched and who was behind it, even as he tries to find the other witness, the man who assisted Melody and appears to have vanished into thin air.
There are other threads here, as a good read should have, with Gemma sorting out her own case and missing Melody’s assistance. But the main thread this time is Kincaid’s, and not all of his questions will be answered at the surprising end of this well-wrought mystery.
Auntie M always enjoys reading Crombie’s work, with one of the highlights her chapter epigrams, which contain historical information about the area where that mystery is set. Readers learn about London and its suburbs as they are surprised by the turn of events. Highly recommended.