Crombie, Deborah. Now May You Weep.

NY: Bantam, 2003.

Several volumes ago in this first-rate series, Detective Sgt. Gemma James moved out of the decrepit semi-detached house she had shared with her ex-husband (and which she could no longer afford) and into a small garage apartment owned by Tim and Hazel Cavendish, both psychiatrists. The two had a four-year-old daughter the same age as Gemma’s son and Hazel and Gemma became close friends.

Hazel also supplied a good deal of psychological support to her tenants, and even though Gemma (recently promoted to Inspector) has now moved into a house in Notting Hill with her partner, Superintendent Duncan Kincaid, the friendship has continued. Previously, Hazel has been just part of the background but in this story she becomes not only a major player but a murder suspect.

Hazel has been invited to the Scottish highlands for a “cookery weekend” by an old schoolmate and her husband who run a B&B, and she’s asked Gemma to accompany her. Gemma begins to wonder if there’s more than mere companionship involved, and this is borne out when Donald Brodie, Hazel’s old flame from fifteen years before, also appears. Someone has conspired to bring the two back together again, even though Hazel, of course, is married. Crombie then proceeds to tell the reader a great deal about the history of whisky distilleries in Scotland (okay, most of it is interesting), a business shared for generations by both Brodie’s family and Hazel’s. And then Brodie is found shotgunned to death. There’s no shortage of suspects, with a variety of possible motives, and Gemma gets herself involved in the investigation, even though she has no authority whatever to meddle. Back at the ranch, Kincaid has been dealing with a domestic crisis involving custody of his recently discovered twelve-year-old son, but he drops everything and gallops off to Scotland to help Gemma in her struggle with the local cop investigating the murder.

This is a pretty good mystery yarn, actually, but I would have to place it firmly in the middle of Crombie’s work in terms of quality because of the overuse of Scots dialect, and Scottish stuff generally. I doubt most farm lads in the early 21st century, for instance, are going to be wearing a kilt while mucking out the stables, as opposed to jeans. I also have to say Crombie’s habit of backing and forthing between the present and a more or less distant past in describing the roots of a mystery is beginning to get a little old. Bringing in semi-supernatural elements — Hazel knows where to dig for the body because of her strange dreams — is much less defensible. Still, while it’s far from her best work, the story itself is worth reading.

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