Scotland Yard Detective Superintendent Duncan Kincaid and his wife, Detective Inspector Gemma James, are all set for a relaxing weekend in one of the most famed and popular areas of England: the Cotswolds. Duncan, Gemma, and their three children will be staying at Beck House, the family estate of Gemma's detective sergeant, Melody Talbot. It will be Gemma's first time staying in a country house owned by a wealthy, prominent family, and she's a bit nervous about it all. (Are the kids going to behave? Will she behave?)
The centerpiece of the weekend is a charity luncheon catered by Viv Holland, an up-and-coming chef. With this luncheon being attended by the local movers-and-shakers as well as national press food bloggers and restaurant critics, this event could make Viv a star.
But a tragic car accident and a series of mysterious deaths put Duncan and Gemma right at the heart of the investigation. The killer seems to have a connection with Viv's pub and Beck House itself. Will Duncan and Gemma find the truth in the past, or in the tangled relationships between the staff at Beck House and Viv's pub? Or is it even more personal still?
If anyone asked me to name my top five mystery series, Deborah Crombie's Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James books would be on that list. A Bitter Feast is an absorbing mystery with an added bonus or two: one, Kincaid, James, and their three children get to leave London for a while; two, readers get to wander along the narrow lanes of a beautiful area of England; and three, any foodie worth their salt is going to appreciate the mouthwatering menus Crombie serves up.
It is my firm belief that Deborah Crombie has been liberally sprinkled with fairy dust. She has a way of telling a story that quite simply makes it a pleasure to read. The mysteries are always good, and the one in A Bitter Feast is no exception. A fatal car wreck ratchets up the tension, not only concerning the identity of a fatality but also concerning the well-being of one of the main characters.
But I have to admit that a lot of Crombie's fairy dust has been sprinkled on the power of her characterizations. Her ensemble cast is superb, and at the moment, I cannot think of anyone else in crime fiction who does it better. By this eighteenth book in the series, these characters have become personal friends. Readers have seen them grow. They've seen them overcome tragedy and experience extreme happiness. Moreover, readers have watched Duncan and Gemma's three children grow. Each child has his or her own personality and life, and each one is fully capable of adding to the story without taking it over. In A Bitter Feast among other things, they provide quite a contrast to Viv Holland's troubled young daughter.
Crombie fans, rejoice! The wait is over and you have another wonderful mystery to carry you off into your happy place. For those of you who have yet to experience a Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James mystery, there's no time like the present. Since the characters' lives are central to the series, I recommend starting with the very first book, A Share in Death. You have so much wonderful reading ahead of you that I'm a tad envious!
A Bitter Feast by Deborah Crombie
William Morrow © 2019
eBook, 384 pages
Police Procedural, #18 Duncan Kincaid & Gemma James mystery
Source: Net Galley