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Bookends: Death on a Time-share plan January 17, 2017

Posted by klondykewriter in Bookends, mystery, Whitehorse Star.
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Bookends: Death on a Time-share plan

By Dan Davidson

a-share-in-deathApril 13, 2016

– 777 words –

 

A Share in Death

By Deborah Crombie

276 pages in print

Simon & Schuster Canada, Inc.

e-Book edition: $10.99

 

It seems to be a thing that a lot of American and Canadian mystery writers like to set their novels in England. Sometimes it’s because they lived there in their younger years. Sometimes they’ve spent some time living there as adults, even though they don’t live there now. It seems like they are simply Anglophiles and enjoy spending more mental time in that setting.

Martha Grimes (lives in Maryland, writes Richard Jury series) and Elizabeth George (lives in Ohio, writes Inspector Lynley series) come to mind from the USA. In Canada we have Peter Robinson (lives in Toronto, writes Inspector Banks series).

Thanks to Canadian mystery writer Vicki Delany, my wife was introduced to the work of Deborah Crombie, a Texan who has lived in the UK and has produced 16 books in a series featuring Superintendent Duncan Kincaid and Sergeant Gemma James. Betty’s been binging on these books and has run through the entire set via KOBO. We’ve figured out how to share each others e-books, so I’m just getting started on this series. Crombie’s backlist does seem to still be available between paper covers from several different publishers if you absolutely insist on the real thing.

This is the first of the Kincaid and James mysteries, originally published in 1993 and reprinted a number of times since then, as well as being available as an audio book.

These sorts of British team mysteries usually have a senior detective and a junior partner, and some of the pleasure of the reading is watching the interaction between the pair. It can be the snob versus the everyman, as in the Inspector Morse books; the intellectual versus the active investigator, as in the Midsommer mysteries; the subdued class warfare of the Lynley books; or experience versus eager youth, which J.K. Rowling has been working in her Cormoran Strike series.

By “versus” I don’t mean that these people are at each other throats all the time, but the contrasts do provide a source of tension in the narratives.

This doesn’t really feel like a first novel, even though it is. Kincaid is actually on vacation, taking advantage of the loan of a luxurious Yorkshire time-share called Followdale House. James is back in London and about the only communication the two have in this book is by telephone. You get a sense that there could be depths to this relationship, but there’s no real space for it in this book. What we do get is the feeling that we’ve walked into the middle of a partnership that is fairly mature and has been developing for some time. It’s like we’ve missed all the introductory episodes of a television show and started watching when the basic framework has already been established, spite of which it works quite well.

Kincaid is just getting to know the other guests and staff when one of the staff is found floating in the whirlpool bath. Kincaid has not told anyone he is with Scotland Yard, but his quiet vacation soon comes to an abrupt end as he becomes tangled up in the investigation, much to the annoyance of the thoroughly incompetent local head of police.

This scenario did remind me somewhat of the initial George Gently novel that I reviewed here back in February. Both detectives would much rather not have gotten involved in a case while on holiday, but kind of get dragged in and then can’t help themselves, even when they aren’t much appreciated by the locals.

In Kincaid’s case he’s also viewed with suspicion by the other guests, who feel that he’s been lurking about under false pretenses. Though he really wasn’t, he ends up feeling almost guilty about trying to set aside his job for a week’s rest. He’s just recently been promoted and has been feeling a bit burned out.

In a nod to Agatha Christie, there’s a plethora of suspects and possible motives before we get too far into the story, and this is where Gemma James comes into her own. Operating on instructions from Kincaid, she busily tracks down the backgrounds and possible connections of all the guests and staff at Followdale. She’s pretty good at her part of the job.

While she is doing this, there’s another murder and an assault and the waters get ever murkier.

I’ll leave it at that, except to say that this was an enjoyable little mystery and I look forward to reading more of them.

 

-30-

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