Title: Water Like a Stone
Author: Deborah Crombie
ISBN: 978-0-06-052528-6, Avon Mystery, 2008
Genre: Police Procedural, #11 Kincaid and James mystery
First Line: Mist rose in swirls from the still surface of the canal.
Duncan, Gemma, the boys and the dog are all spending the Christmas holiday in Cheshire with Duncan's parents. Duncan has always spoken of growing up outside the town of Nantwich as though it were heaven on earth. London born and bred, Gemma's not so sure of this, and she's a bit nervous at meeting Duncan's parents and sister. However, they're barely have time to walk in the door and take off their coats before everything starts going pear-shaped.
Duncan's sister, Juliet, has begun her own business as a builder. Staying late one evening to finish up some tasks in an old barn she's renovating, Juliet discovers the mummified remains of an infant. The investigation calls to Duncan like the Pied Piper of Hamlin, and whenever "his whiskers start twitching", he can't resist leaving his family just to see how things are going. This soon wears thin with Gemma:
"Don't you even think about leaving me home like the little woman," she spat out. "I'm going with you, and you'd better not say one bloody word about it."
Duncan takes the hint... and then a woman living on a narrow boat in a nearby canal is murdered, and Duncan's family is in danger.
This is another wonderful entry in the series. It's almost impossible for me to leave these books alone. I want to read one right after the other as quickly as I can, but if I do that, I'll be caught up and waiting impatiently for the next to be published.
Crombie's plots are always layered and intricate. Once she hit her stride at about book #4, I just can't puzzle out whodunit ahead of time. But this series is much more than a collection of complicated plots. It's peopled by one of the absolute best cast of characters to be found anywhere in fiction. Duncan and Gemma's relationship feels like the real deal. Their son, Kit, could be a living, breathing teenager beset with all sorts of problems that are (eventually) dealt with in the best possible way. When I sit down to read one of these books, I'm smiling because I'm amongst friends who change, who make mistakes, who grow, and who don't live in a bell jar. These characters are just as apt to come to harm as any of us. Their creator doesn't shield them, just as we are not shielded.
Crombie spends a few months each year in the UK to research her books. For Water Like a Stone she researched life on the narrow boats and canals that crisscross the island. (A photo of the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct is to the left.) If you're anything like me, as you read this book, you're going to find yourself checking for the books she mentions, and firing up your search engines because it's a fascinating subject to weave into her story.
Only two books left before I'm completely caught up. I don't know whether to be happy or sad because it will be torture to wait for each book to be published! Do you have a series of books you feel passionately about?
[Source: Purchased at Alibris.]