Deborah Crombie: To Dwell in Darkness Friday, Oct 3 2014 

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.
Dwell in Darkness

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.

Two New in Paperback Sunday, Apr 29 2012 

Avon is reprinting two great mysteries in paperback for readers to gobble up.

J. A. Jance’s twentieth novel featuring J.P. Beaumont is titled Betrayal of Trust, and after reading this Seattle-based detective novel, you’ll understand the title refers to the many layers of trust that have been violated.

Telling the story from Beaumont’s first person point of view allows for the narrator’s dry wit and digressions to provide relief from the grim crime scenes he will face. Beaumont and his wife, fellow detective Mel Soames, work for the Attorney General’s Special Homicide Investigation Team on Squad B. It’s a recurring point of humor that the acronym for their team gets bandied about, but there’s nothing humorous about the case they find themselves seconded to, in Olympia’s Squad A, at the direct request of the Attorney General.

They meet with the AG at the hotel they’ll be living out of for the duration of the case, and the snuff film he shows them on a cell phone will lead them to unravel a twisted tale that revolves around murder, bullying, and blended families, thrusting them at the door of the governor’s mansion.

The cell phone belongs to the governor’s step-grandson, a troubled boy who denies knowledge of the apparent juvenile prank gone wrong. At least that’s what Beaumont and Soams are led to believe–until there’s a second death, and as the bodies pile up, it’s obvious there are deeper implications and layers of corruption with multiple perpetrators, who just might be minors.

The horrific case changes from being a part of Beaumont’s job to a more personal quest when he identifies with one of the dead young men. An interesting subplot concerning Beaumont’s own family roots is handled well, never detracting from the forward thrust of the investigation.

Jance’s characters feel authentic and her plot twists will grab your attention as she illustrates how dogged police work puts the pieces of a puzzle together and lead to a satisfying conclusion. The next in this series is titled Judgement Call. Jance is also the author of the Joanna Brady series, the Ali Reynolds series, and four Walker family thrillers.

 

Next up is Katherine Hall Page’s Faith Fairchild mystery, The Body in the Gazebo, the Agatha Award winner’s nineteenth in the series. Having a caterer and ‘foodie’ as a protagonist leads to the hallmark of the series: the inclusion at the end of the book of many of the recipes caterer Faith Fairchild mentions or uses during the course of the story. She also has a gift for weaving in historical details of the northeast.

Faith’s best friend, Pix Miller, is out of town at pre-wedding festivities, meeting her son’s soon-to-be in-laws. When Faith agrees to keep an eye on Pix’s mother, Ursula Rowe, it’s a gesture of born of friendship and genuine liking for the older woman, home recovering from a bout of pneumonia.

But Ursula’s recuperation is hampered by a story she feels she must confide to Faith: a secret tale of long-ago intrigue and murder that dates back to the Great Depression. It will take her days to tell Faith the story due to her weakened condition and the emotions attached to it. Faith hadn’t known until this time that Ursula once had an older brother; a brother who was brutally murdered, with an innocent man accused of his death.

As Faith becomes embroiled in the story, told often with flashbacks to the period from Ursula’s memory, she’s also trying to keep her children cared for competently and her business going, even as she worries about her assistant, newly-pregnant Niki Theodopolous.

Then Faith’s husband, Reverend Thomas Fairchild, is accused of embezzling from his church’s discretionary fund, and Faith swings into action to unravel all the mysteries affecting those she loves, putting herself squarely in danger in the process.

Page writes a lively mystery with a fast pace. Her gift for story-telling leads her readers down many avenues as her novels combine a balance between lightness and the deeper personal dramas that envelop her characters. Love, faith and redemption reside alongside murder, theft and intrigue, all wrapped up tighter than a good egg roll.

The next in this series is The Body in the Boudoir.