Thursday, June 18, 2009

In a Dark House by Deborah Crombie

Title: In a Dark House
Author: Deborah Crombie
ISBN: 9780060525262, Avon Mystery, 2006
Genre: Police Procedural, #10 Duncan Kincaid & Gemma James
Rating: A

First Line: It took no more than a match, nestled beneath the crumpled paper and foil crisp packets.

Detective Inspector Gemma James is having no luck in finding a missing child in her Notting Hill patch of London. An old Victorian warehouse owned by a politician goes up in smoke, and it's hard to believe how much crime is uncovered by the burning of one building.

The charred, unidentified body of a woman is found in the warehouse. In trying to give her a name, Detective Superintendent Duncan Kincaid learns there are four possibilities. Checking into each lead and every clue leads to a serial arsonist and another missing child, and it is this missing little girl upon whom Gemma focuses.

Crombie has written her most densely plotted novel yet, and it is a pleasure to watch a master weaver at work: having her characters track each missing woman back until they find the right one, introducing a dedicated firefighter who has a hunch about an arsonist that she cannot ignore, and letting her readers know that there is a child out there in the hands of a mentally unstable person. I've even left out several plot threads! Crombie never loses sight of any of those threads, and the result is a book that I did not want to put down.

When anyone asks me to recommend a favorite mystery series in which the plots are every bit as good as the characters, Crombie always comes to mind first. I love reading these books for their complex plots and for their recurring characters who develop and change as the series continues.

I have a tendency to read series rather slowly. If I read them back to back, I can tire of the writing style or become hyper-critical of characterization, pacing or plot. I picked up the first book in this series less than a year ago, and I'm almost completely caught up. Why so speedy with this one? Because it's a pleasure to see Crombie become more skilled with each book...and because my husband has gotten hooked on them, too. If any of you have wondered how well a Texan can write a series set in England, I'll tell you this: Denis, Lancashire born and bred, gives Crombie two enthusiastic thumbs up. He'll be just as disappointed as I when we're caught up and waiting for the next book in the series to appear!


  1. That must be a great series if both you and Denis are hooked on them and you don't mind reading the books so close together.


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