Crombie, Deborah. Necessary as Blood.

NY: Bantam, 2009.

This is the 13th novel in the mystery series starring Detective Superintendent Duncan Kincaid of Scotland Yard and his (once professional and now domestic) partner, Inspector Gemma James, and I think it’s one of the best. This is largely, I think, because there’s rather less digression about purely family matters

— Gemma’s mother’s cancer, her relationship with her spiteful sister, hers and Duncan’s upcoming wedding, the family background of Gemma’s constable and friend, Melody — and more concentration on the murder and its investigation in classic procedural fashion.

Gemma has a close friend, Hazel, whom those who have read the series from the beginning have come to know well. Hazel is now separated from her husband, Tim. And Tim has a Pakistani lawyer friend (or Bangladeshi, it isn’t clear), Nasir Malik, who has an English wife, Sandra, who disappeared a few months ago, leaving her two-year-old daughter, Charlotte, with a friend. Naz has never believed that his wife simply ran off — but then Naz himself disappears. Tim turns to Gemma for advice and/or help and Duncan, who is involved in a separate case, finds himself (naturally) caught up in things, too. Naz’s body is soon found and the plot revolves around the search for his murderer, including trying to find out what happened to Sandra. Sandra’s two drug-dealing brothers come into the story, too, as well as their mother (if she were a Yank, she’d be a trailer-park redneck), who is trying to get custody of Charlotte. And Gemma is damned if she’ll allow that to happen. (If you know Gemma, you’ll see the resolution of that particular problem coming a mile away.)

Crombie comes up with a new setting and a new bit of history to explore in each of her books, and this time it’s Spitalfields in the East End, especially Brick Lane and Fournier Street, originally settled by the Huguenot refugees from France in the early 18th century and now the center of London’s Bangladeshi community. (I found this of particular interest, as it happens, because my own Huguenot ancestors lived there before emigrating to the American colonies.) And she does a pretty good job of it, as always. But quite apart from the local color and context, the mystery itself is a very enjoyable puzzle — even though the killer finally turns out to be not one of the major characters.

Published in: on 27 March 2013 at 1:13 pm  Leave a Comment  
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