Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Where Memories Lie: Deborah Crombie

Description from my paperback edition:
A lifetime ago, Erika Rosenthal and her late husband, David, fled to England to escape the Nazis—which is all Scotland Yard Detective Inspector Gemma James truly knows about her secretive friend's past. But Erika needs Gemma's help now. A family heirloom, stolen during their flight, is being sold at a prestigious London auction house. Who has had it all these years? And was Erika's husband's death more sinister than it appeared?
The two  protagonist's of this series, Inspector Gemma James and Superintendent Duncan Kincaid of Scotland Yard, are living together and both have one child from a previous relationship. This novel, the 12th in the series, begins with the discovery of the long-lost piece of jewelry and then gets combined with an investigation into the death of an employee at the auction house. Are the two related? Also included are flashbacks to the previous investigation of the death of Erika's husband (in 1952) which was eventually ruled to be suicide.

My thoughts:

This type of story that blends a current case with an older case and includes multiple points of view is usually appealing to me. The Holocaust and the pain that remains for the Jewish victims who lived through it is a compelling basis for the story. I enjoyed those aspects of this novel. There were many plot threads, some related to the crimes, some not. Gemma's mother has a serious illness and her relationship with her father is uncomfortable; more background of Erika's life before and after she left Germany are revealed; there are upsets in the balance of relationships in the various police teams. These all felt realistic but there were too many unrelated threads for me. The book is not that long and some of these separate elements seem like padding, not fully developed parts of the story.

Other views:

This review at Reviewing the Evidence is very good, both in exploring the good points  and pointing out the bad points of this book and Deborie Crombie's books in general.  I agree very much with this statement from that review:
Deborah Crombie's James and Kincaid series is something of an enigma in that the entries within it tend to vary quite substantially in terms of quality. Fortunately this is one of the better efforts. There are quite substantial soapy elements here which will appeal most to series aficionados; anyone coming to this as their introduction to Gemma and Duncan might find them not only intrusive, but also feel that they are missing out.
Two other good reviews are


Summing up:

I highly recommend the first books in the series. I read the first eight books back in 2002 and loved them all. After that point, I found the emphasis on the home life and trials and tribulations of the couple and their children to be distracting, and to detract from the main plot. I don't see how these could be read as stand alone books, since so much of the couple's history informs the situation in each book. However, I can tell from the many reviews I read on the books in this series that the family life of Duncan and Gemma are the main drawing point for many readers. Thus I would caution that many readers will find these elements to be positives, not negatives.

Possibly it is my love for the earlier novels that leads to my criticism of the later novels. I expect much more from the author. I also like the character of Duncan Kincaid more than Gemma James, and the focus of the most recent books that I have read seem to be on Gemma.

Why do I continue to read this series by Deborah Crombie when I have reservations about them? First, because I still have some books in the series. Mainly, because I love the maps in the later books, created and illustrated by Laura Maestro. I have bought two of the later hardcover books solely because of the maps. Seriously. If you are interested in the maps, you can read about them at Deborah Crombie's website.

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Publisher:  Avon Books, 2009. Orig. pub. 2008.
Length:     289 pages
Format:     Paperback
Series:      Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James, #12
Setting:     London
Genre:      Police Procedural
Source:    I purchased this book.

20 comments:

  1. Tracy, the two book exhibitions I went to a few months ago (and usually frequent every year) had a pile of books by Deborah Crombie though at the time I didn't know she was so good. I recall being in two minds whether to pick up one or two of her paperbacks. I'd be interested in reading her very first book "A Share in Death" in the Gemma-Duncan series. The author seems to have focused on just this one series.

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    1. I think you would like A Share in Death, Prashant, and you might like any of her books. I do hope you have a chance to try one of her books sometime.

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  2. Glad you enjoyed this one. It's not an author I'm familiar with and I'm probably going to remain that way.

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    1. Not an author I would recommend for you, Col. But only because you have too many other books / authors to catch up on.

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  3. This is a favorite series of mine. And I'm in the group that love the characters and their development as much as the mystery aspect. I find that true in many of the long-running series that I read.

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    1. I thought I remembered that you liked this author, Kay. From a review at your blog earlier in the year. I have followed several longer running series where I liked the characters a lot, so I do know what you mean. I don't know why Crombie's later books don't work so well for me. I have read 24 of the Gregor Demarkian series which has the ongoing relationship of Gregor and Bennis and sometimes I have similar issues with that series. Yet I can re-read all the Rex Stout books about Nero and Archie over and over, and primarily it is to revisit those characters.

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  4. I like this series very much, Tracy. That said, though, I agree with you that the first seven or eight books have more of a focus on the main (mystery) plot. For people who prefer their crime fiction that way, I do think those are better. I'm glad you found some things to like about this one, though.

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    1. I have a great fondness for her earlier books, Margot. I have held on to my copies because I will probably reread them someday.

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  5. I preferred the earlier books in this series. I do think she does an amazing job as a Texan writing from an English point of view.
    Ann

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    1. Oh, that's right, Ann, you originally came from England. I have never even visited, so I am no expert, but it does seem she does well in that area.

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  6. Thanks for the link, Tracy! I'm another longtime fan of the series who only likes a few of the more recent ones. Maybe if she tried writing a standalone she'd get enough time away from these characters to come up with an amazing one-- just a thought.

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    1. It does surprise me that Crombie has not written a standalone, Rebecca. I would definitely try that if she did.

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  7. Definitely going to try some of the earlier ones then - thanks Tracy!

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    1. I do highly recommend them, Sergio. and it will be interesting to see if you think she does well writing about the UK.

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  8. Like you, Tracy, I am conflicted about this series. When I read one I usually enjoy it, but these days I do not immediately think 'must read another'. And I agree, too much home life. All that said, this one does sound good, I like the main plot elements.

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    1. This one was a hard one to review, Moira. I did like it but it had multiple elements that irritated me. I do think many readers would like it though and starting from the beginning is best for this series, I think.

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  9. Never heard of this author Tracy but will see whether I can get hold of the first one in the series.

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    1. I think you would like the first one, neer. A very fine book.

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  10. I've been meaning to read her forever and have heard the same thing: that her earlier books are really good. I have the first two or three I think. Glad to see you are a fan. It kind of depends for me if the personal life is well blended or not. It can be a big distraction. I think that's what drives me crazy about Liza Marklund's books (sorry for the slight tangent)

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    1. No problem, Keishon. Any tangent is fine.

      Since I wrote this post, I have thought about other series I read which include personal life and I don't know why this one doesn't work for me when others do. I do think this author is worth trying, though.

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