Wednesday, February 06, 2013

The Sound of Broken Glass


I am a longtime fan of Elizabeth George, and I have often wished that she would produce more than one new novel per year. So, finally discovering Deborah Crombie’s Scotland Yard detective series (The Sound of Broken Glass being the fifteenth book in the series) last year was one of the highlights of my reading year.

The novels of George and Crombie have much in common. Each series is anchored by a group of Scotland Yard detectives who, over the course of the series, change and mature as they experience what ordinary life throws at them.  Major characters come and go, sometimes by choice, other times they are claimed by death. And, interestingly, despite the British settings of both series, George and Crombie are both American authors who rely on in-country and Internet research for the authenticity and detail that make their work so special.

Crombie’s two central characters are a married couple: detectives Duncan Kinkaid and Gemma James. As The Sound of Broken Glass begins, Duncan, currently on a parental leave of absence, is spending his days caring for the couple’s children, with most of his attention necessarily being devoted to their troubled three-year-old foster daughter. Gemma has now returned to work and is leading a Murder Investigation Team in South London.

Gemma’s first investigation as team leader begins early one Saturday morning with a phone call from Detective Sergeant Melody Talbot. Staff in a disreputable Crystal Palace hotel has discovered a dead man – in a rather embarrassing position.  The naked man, bound hand and foot, is on his back and appears to have been strangled. Whether he is the victim of murder, or of some sexual game gone bad, is not immediately clear, but he certainly could not have tied himself up the way he was found. The victim, as it turns out, is a London attorney who is neither particularly well liked or respected by his colleagues. What at first appears to be a rather straightforward investigation grows complicated when, a few days later, a second attorney is found dead under very similar circumstances.

Deborah Crombie
While the murder investigation is interesting enough, what makes The Sound of Broken Glass even more fun is the way that Crombie continues to develop her central cast of characters.  Duncan is itching to get back to work, but his new daughter needs him more than Scotland Yard does; Melody succumbs to a temptation that places her police career in jeopardy; Gemma feels guilty about how little time she has for her family; and Duncan’s old partner, Doug Cullen, is suddenly acting so needy that he is annoying everyone around him – probably including himself. 

Via a series of flashbacks and real-time developments, Crombie offers a series of clues and misdirection that will keep most mystery fans guessing.  I am not very good at solving these things before all is revealed near the end, and it was no different for me with The Sound of Broken Glass. Elizabeth George fans can double their pleasure by reading Deborah Crombie’s Scotland Yard series (and vice versa). Fans of mysteries and police procedurals will not want to miss either of these ladies.

(Review Copy provided by Publisher)

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