Saturday, March 21, 2020

A Bitter Feast - Deborah Crombie

Deborah Crombie’s A Bitter Feast is the eighteenth book in her Duncan Kincaid/Gemma James series, a series that began in 1993 with A Share in Death. Like Elizabeth George, author of the Thomas Lynley series, Crombie is an American who sets her books in the U.K. Both authors have lived in the U.K. at one time or another and are familiar enough with the British settings of their novels that readers would be hard-pressed to guess the nationality of either.

A Bitter Feast begins with Detective Superintendent Duncan Kincaid and his wife, Detective Inspector Gemma James looking forward to a family weekend during which they and their three children can relax in the Cotswolds. The family has been invited to a large country estate that belongs to the parents of Detective Sergeant Melody Talbot, a close friend and co-worker of Gemma’s, and they are in the rather complicated process of getting there: Gemma, her daughter, and Melody in Melody’s car; the two boys and a family friend coming by train; and Duncan driving alone in the family car.

With the exception of Duncan, all arrive safely.

Deborah Crombie
Beginning with Duncan’s accident, the weekend will not be at all like the relaxing one they had all anticipated. Instead, Duncan learns that there is much more to the accident that so easily could have killed him than meets the eye, and that other lives are still in danger. Viv’s pub seems to be the center of the storm. How did a world famous chef ever find the place – and why did he not survive the night? Why are all of Viv’s employees so reluctant to answer questions, and just what are they hiding from the cops - and from each other, anyway?

Bottom Line: A Bitter Feast offers a good (and rather complicated) mystery that will stump most readers right up to the very end of the book. But series fans are likely most to appreciate the novel for the long look they get at the various members of the Kincaid-James family, all the way from little Charlotte and Toby, on to their rapidly maturing brother Kit, and at the still close relationship between Duncan and Gemma themselves. The ever-evolving relationship between Melody Talbot and fellow cop Doug Cullen, shaky as it is by book’s end, is also explored in depth. All of Deborah Crombie’s novels work pretty well as standalones, but as is most always the case in series of this length, longtime fans are really the target audience for A Bitter Feast, and they are the readers who will most enthusiastically appreciate the book. (And that’s as it should be, I think.)

8 comments:

  1. Loads of people I know through blogging love this series so I must start it. I have the first book on Kindle so will maybe get to it after my current crime read is finished.

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    1. I really do enjoy this series, Cath, mainly because the Kincaid-James family is such a cobbled together one and it works so well for all the family members. The mysteries Crombie uses as the core of her books are usually complicated enough to keep me guessing right to the end. I

      I'd be curious to hear what you think of her novels, as well as those of Elizabeth George, since they are written by Americans but set in England or Scotland. I wonder how easy it would be for you, as a Brit, to pick up on the mistakes that i wouldn't catch.

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    2. I shall let you know in due course. Generally speaking I tend to find Americans do very well setting their books over here. Odd words creep in, 'gotten' for instance, but so many words cross the divide between us and you now, because of the internet, that I tend to not let it bother me. I'm sure English authors setting books in the US make equally as many mistakes.

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    3. I remember reading a noirish detective novel set in 1940s Los Angeles a while back that was written by someone from the U.K. I thought it was well done and authentic-sounding, but then I wondered if maybe that was at least partially because it was set in a historic period of time that had a language of its own even then.

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  2. Another series I've never read. Sheesh. You'd think I didn't read at all. ;D

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    1. LOL. I feel that way every time I read someone's list of books on a blog, Lark.

      Too many books out there for any of us to ever feel very comfortable about even recognizing the titles and author names, much less knowing anything at all about them.

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  3. Since I love getting back to Duncan, Gemma, and other regular characters, I enjoyed this one.

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    1. Crombie is really good at involving all of her characters in each story, and I though she did that exceptionally well here.

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