Crombie, Deborah. A Share in Death.

NY: Scribner, 1993.

My wife’s taste in mystery novels runs to “cozies,” from Agatha Christie to Martha Grimes, while I prefer somewhat more contemporary settings (and more believable plots). Crombie has become a favorite of hers, though, and the reviews have been good, so I promised to give her a try. This debut effort is not especially innovative — which I expect is part of its appeal — but it’s very nicely done.

Duncan Kincaid is a recently promoted Detective Superintendent at Scotland Yard, but he’s not the usual country-house gentleman, scion of a notable family. No, his parents ran a bookshop out in the provinces and he never went to university. Nevertheless, he’s a rising star on the fast track and quite young for his rank. His assistant is the flaming-haired Sergeant Gemma James, a natural-born copper, ferociously ambitious, and also a single mother trying to squeeze by on a tight budget. Their strengths blend and they make a formidable investigative team, though there can be friction between them, too.

Kincaid has been given a week’s vacation by a cousin in a Yorkshire timeshare and he sets off in hopes of an actual holiday, but (of course) it’s not to be. Almost the first day, the assistant manager of the facility is found dead in the Jacuzzi and various suspicious circumstances lead Kincaid to suspect murder — the first time he’s had to confront a homicide victim he actually knew and liked. The other guests, both couples and families, plus the icily beautiful and thoroughly unlikeable manager, make up the traditional closed circle of suspects, and there’s also the local DCI, a nasty piece of work who deeply resents Kincaid sticking his nose in on his patch.

The plot is nicely complicated, with a few red herrings and some startling twists towards the end, and Crombie shows herself very skilled at painting complex, contemporary characters and their relationships. She manages to adhere to the conventions, but in a turn-of-the-century setting, and her command of British idiom and setting is so assured you would never guess that she’s actually a native North Texan.

Published in: on 18 October 2012 at 6:55 am  Leave a Comment  
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