Crombie, Deborah. Kissed a Sad Goodbye.

NY: Bantam, 1999.

With every novel she writes about Detective Superintendent Duncan Kincaid of Scotland Yard, Crombie gets better and better. Kincaid and his faithful assistant, Sergeant Gemma James, become more deeply and completely realized, both in their separate histories and in their slowly developing personal relationship, and the one-off characters in each book come to life from the first page.

While you can certainly read each entry in the series without referring to any of the others, you’ll enjoy them a lot more if you begin at the beginning because Crombie never throws anything away.

Her plots have become nicely complex, too. The setting this time is the Isle of Dogs in the East End, often referred to by locals as simply “the Island,” and for the past couple of decades a part of the Docklands, one of the most triumphantly resurgent parts of Greater London. This was once the destination of nearly all of England’s huge incoming sea trade — until the ships got too big and the docks were abandoned. It nearly declined into just an enormous slum, but most of the old warehouses have now become residential and the docks themselves have been replaced by tower blocks and office buildings — Canary Wharf is the best known — and property values have gone through the roof. The East End may have been saved, but not many of its earlier residents can afford to live there now. We learn all this background as Kincaid and James investigate the murder of Annabelle Hammond, fifth-generation manager of the family business, Hammond Teas. The Hammonds have been a part of the Island for so long, it’s difficult to find someone outside the family who didn’t know them and probably was involved with them. Since it seems most likely that Annabelle knew her killer, the two detectives begin sorting through her past, as well as her present relationships. It doesn’t take long to discover that the incomparably beautiful and extremely strong-willed Annabelle had also an unpleasant side to her personality.

Parallel to this, we also begin learning the story of several children who were evacuated to a country house in Surrey during World War II, one of them a Hammond and one of them destined to be closely involved in the Island’s rebuilding in the last decades of the century. And besides all this, Kincaid is wrestling with the discovery from the previous book that he has an adolescent son he never knew about, and whom he now has to figure out how to cope with. (Gemma has her own personal issues, but they’re less important this time.) Crombie shows great skill in weaving together the past and present of the Isle of Dogs, from docks to Docklands, and in fitting all her characters into that history. Dreaming of the Bones is a hard act to follow but she manages it very competently.

Published in: on 1 December 2012 at 6:01 am  Leave a Comment  
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