Friday, April 28, 2017

Garden of Lamentations

Hard as it is to believe, Garden of Lamentations is Deborah Crombie’s seventeenth novel in the Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James series that started in 1993 with publication of A Share in Death.  Fans of the series will come into this one already knowing that Kincaid and James are husband and wife police detectives who live in London with their three children.  They will also likely know that in the previous novel in the series, To Dwell in Darkness, Duncan was transferred from his Scotland Yard position to an outlying police district and that Duncan became involved in an investigation that very much made him worry about the personal safety of himself and his family.  Not only were Duncan and Gemma pushed to their physical and mental limits, their best friends (and fellow cops), Doug and Melody, were equally tested.  The last few pages of To Dwell in Darkness hinted of more dark things to come for the four characters, and Crombie is quick to pick up on that theme in Garden of Lamentations.  Do not, however, worry too much about reading this one even if you haven’t read in the series before, because this new one works pretty well as a standalone novel also.

It all starts for Gemma James when the body of a young woman is discovered early one morning inside the walled, private garden of a group of wealthy London property owners.  As it turns out, the young victim had been acquainted with one of Gemma’s close friends, and that friendship somehow sucks Gemma into the investigation before she realizes what is happening.  She is not particularly happy about that, but when her friend’s influential husband manages to get her officially seconded to the investigation there is no getting out of it.  Regular mystery readers will recognize this as a version of the classic “locked room” type of mystery – no way into the garden without first going through one of the residences that surround it.

Deborah Crombie
In the meantime, Kincaid is revisiting the unfinished business from the previous novel and what he learns is enough to scare him to death. It seems that the rot inside Scotland Yard and the London Police runs deep and to very high levels.  Cops and ex-cops are being killed all over London and it is up to Kincaid, Doug, and Melody, to figure out who is calling the shots before they themselves become victims of the same plot. 

The two storylines pretty much run independently of each other, intersecting only when the main characters meet up to touch base and work out the resentments and hurt feelings resulting from having had so little personal contact with each other.  Because both of the plot lines are complicated and involve multiple characters and red herrings, I advise the reader to pay strict attention to what is revealed; this is not a novel to read when you are drowsy or have other distractions. Pay attention, however, and you will be intrigued by both the investigations and where they lead (pay particular attention to the descriptions and names in the flashback to 1994). 

Crombie has another winner on her hands.  Her novels cannot help but remind the reader of Elizabeth George’s Inspector Lynley series, another detective series set in London but written by an American, but in my estimation, Crombie’s recent novels are more satisfying and enjoyable than George’s recent ones.  If you are unfamiliar with Crombie, jump on board. You’ll be happy that you did.

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