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.
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.
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
- At Mysteries in Paradise, which also includes some mini-reviews of earlier books.
- Also Rebecca's review at Ms. Wordopolis.
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.
Publisher: Avon Books, 2009. Orig. pub. 2008.
Length: 289 pages
Series: Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James, #12
Genre: Police Procedural
Source: I purchased this book.