Tag Archives: Deborah Crombie

A Mysterious Week (during which I read Jo Nesbo, Robert Crais and Deborah Crombie)

There’s one side benefit of the flu – there’s lots of time for reading. As a result, I had a marvelous reading week last week – it’s amazing how many books you can read while soothing your child’s fevered brow!

The Snowman, by Jo Nesbo

The Snowman, by Jo Nesbo

I’m pleased that I finally got around to reading Jo Nesbo’s The Snowman. It’s been on my TBR list for a while, and I’ve read so many reviews raving about it. What a great read – so many twists!

Oslo in November. The first snow of the season has fallen. A boy named Jonas wakes in the night to find his mother gone. Out his window, in the cold moonlight, he sees the snowman that inexplicably appeared in the yard earlier in the day. Around its neck is his mother’s pink scarf.

Hole suspects a link between a menacing letter he’s received and the disappearance of Jonas’s mother—and of perhaps a dozen other women, all of whom went missing on the day of a first snowfall. As his investigation deepens, something else emerges: he is becoming a pawn in an increasingly terrifying game whose rules are devised—and constantly revised—by the killer.

I did have my suspicions about who the murderer was, but they were just mild suspicions; I was never sure. There were so many questions I didn’t have answers for. I like reading mysteries where I feel this way – at the end, there’s a sense of “aha! I was on the right track”, but you don’t lose any of the enjoyment of the read the way you do if the solution is so obvious to everyone but the main detective character. Very enjoyable read.

The Elvis Cole Series, by Robert Crais

I’ve also seen a lot of reviews recently raving about Taken, by Robert Crais. Taken is the latest book in the Elvis Cole series, and while the reviews had me eager to read the book, many of the reviewers talked about how the book was very much about the relationship between Elvis Cole and Joe Pike.

Since I’d never read any of the books in the series, I thought it might be a good idea to read some of the earlier books first; it just seemed to me that Taken would have even more impact if I was already familiar with the characters.

So last week I read:

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And I’m very glad I did. The series reminds me a little of Robert Parker’s Spencer series, but grittier, with harder, darker edges.

I started with Stalking the Angel, the second book in the series, and enjoyed it thoroughly; it was a little slow to start but Elvis Cole is such an engaging character I found myself willing to put up with the slow start.

Bradley Warren has lost a very valuable thirteenth-century Japanese manuscript, the Hagakure, and hires Elvis Cole to recover it. Elvis and Joe Pike search through Los Angeles’ Little Tokyo and the nest of the notorious Japanese mafia, known as the yakuza.

Next up was The Last Detective, which definitely started off with a bang. It was an intriguing storyline, and even though I figured out what was happening before Cole and Pike did, that didn’t make the read any less enjoyable.

P.I. Elvis Cole’s relationship with attorney Lucy Chenier is strained. Then the unthinkable happens. While Lucy is away on business and her ten-year-old son Ben is staying with Elvis, the boy vanishes without a trace. When the kidnappers call, it’s not for ransom, but for a promise to punish Cole for past sins he claims he didn’t commit. With the LAPD wrestling over the case, and the boy’s estranged father attempting to take control of the investigation, Cole vows to find Ben first. But Cole’s partner, Joe Pike, knows more about this case than he has said. Pike lives in a world where dangerous men commit crimes beyond all reckoning. Now, one of those men is alive and well in L.A.—and calling Elvis Cole to war. . . .

From there I read The Monkey’s Raincoat, the first book in the series (as you can see, I have no problems reading a series out of order …!). Another very enjoyable read. I particularly liked witnessing Ellen Lang’s transformation.

Ellen Lang walks into Cole’s Disney-Deco office and hires Elvis to find her husband and son. Elvis and Joe search through Hollywood leads them to a world of drugs, sex and murder.

The best thing about coming in on a long-running series late in the game is having a whole lot of good reading ahead of you. Right now, Lullaby Town, L.A. Requiem and Free Fall are waiting for me on the Overdrive app on my iPad.

The Duncan Kincaid/Gemma James Series, by Deborah Crombie

All that downtime also gave me a chance to catch up on the Duncan Kincaid/Gemma James Scotland Yard series by Deborah Crombie.

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In No Mark Upon Her, the latest in the series, the victim is Rebecca Meredith, a high-ranking Met officer who’s also making a comeback as a rower in contention for the next Olympic games. As always in this series, there are several enjoyable twists, and the secondary characters are as fully fleshed as the main series characters.

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I then turned to Water Like a Stone, an older book in the series, in which Kincaid and James take their blended family to spend Christmas with Kincaid’s parents, in the town of Nantwich. The mystery begins with the discovery of an infant’s mummified corpse within the walls of a building that Kincaid’s sister is renovating. Another murder occurs, and Kincaid and James find themselves assisting the local police in putting together all the pieces.

Both reads were very satisfactory, and I’m looking forward to reading the other books in the series that are still on my TBR.

So that was my “mysterious week” (of reading) (well, actually, it was more like ten days). Not that I’d welcome the flu again, but at least there was a silver lining!

Review: Kissed a Sad Goodbye, by Deborah Crombie

Kissed a Sad GoodbyeThe body of a very beautiful young woman has been found in an East London park. She looks peaceful, like she might be sleeping. But death has, indeed, come for her, and Detective Superintendent Duncan Kincaid and Sergeant Gemma James set out to discover the woman’s identity, and who hated her enough to kill her. The case leads them to a famous London tea company, and also back to the days of the London Blitz during World War II.

I’m not very good at resisting temptation, so I’m reading all of Crombie’s Kincaid/James mysteries out of order. In Kissed a Sad Goodbye, Gemma and Duncan are lovers but haven’t committed to each other beyond that. Gemma finds herself very attracted to one of the suspects in the case; meanwhile, Duncan is trying to make room in his life for Kit, the son he has only just discovered.

First up, an admission: I cried a couple of times while reading Kissed a Sad Goodbye. It happened later in the book, when Crombie had taken me deep into the story; scenes from England during World War II are expertly woven into the narrative, and these were the scenes that really pulled me in. She captures so well the story of a boy whose family sends him to safety in the British countryside, his feelings about leaving his family in danger back in London, his interest in his new surroundings and the people with whom he’s staying.

A barge passed by, lit only stern and prow by small, shaded lanterns. In the darkness and silence it seemed ghostly, primitive, a Viking longboat returned from the dead. Lewis shivered. Suddenly he felt a stab of homesickness as intense as those of his first few days at the Hall – and yet it was more than that. He wanted to freeze time, to hold everyone and everything unchanged, and the weight of his desire made it difficult to breathe.

“Da,” he said, forcing the words out. “Let me stay here. The war’s all bollocks anyway, everyone knows that. Nothing’s going to happen – there’s no reason I can’t come home.”

I couldn’t fathom what the connection was between past and present, not until the very end when Crombie lays it all out for the reader; what happened in the past to set off this tragic chain of events was shocking, and caught me very much by surprise.

One of the things the book makes you think about is the consequence of possessing great beauty. By the end of the novel, I found that there was far more to the victim than her initial beauty and interactions with people had lead me to expect. Despite the things she had done, I felt such sorrow that her untimely death had prevented her from finally, for the first time in her life, taking off on wings of her own.

“I’ve always thought that exceptional beauty was as great an affliction as any physical handicap – perhaps more so. It is so difficult for the beautiful person, male or female, to develop a good character, isn’t it? The odds are stacked against them from the start.”

Gemma frowned. “How do you mean?”

“They are never required to earn the regard or affection of others through their behavior; rather, they come to expect it as their due. And they are forgiven almost anything, simply because of the way they look …”

The only flaw in the novel for me came in the denouement; the motive for the murder was not quite as strong as I would have liked. That didn’t take away from the ending, though; it was still very satisfying to learn who the murderer was, and the strength of Crombie’s depiction of all the characters was such that I eagerly read the end of the mystery, the parts past the unmasking of the murderer, because I wanted to know what happened to each of the characters.

If you’re a P.D. James or Elizabeth George fan, and you haven’t read any of Crombie’s novels before, you’re in for a real treat. Her style has evolved far beyond the first book in the series, A Share in Death, which read more to me like a cozy; subsequent books in the series feature complex characterizations and storylines filled with all sorts of twists and turns. Highly recommended.

Related Links and Fun Stuff

As always in Crombie’s books, there’s a finely detailed map of the area in London that plays a large role in the mystery (click on image to view in large on author’s site):

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Each chapter also begins with quotes from Dockland: An Illustrated Historical Survey of Life and Work in East London, and Memories of Childhood on the Isle of Dogs (the latter by Eve Hostettler).

Author’s website

Where to buy Kissed a Sad Goodbye:

U.S. (Amazon.com)

Canada (Chapters)

UK (Amazon.co.uk)

Review copy details: published by Bantam Books, 2001, Mass market paperback, 369 pages

More Library Decadence

After my recent Library Loot post, I really didn’t think I could have that many more hold requests at the library coming in. I haven’t had a chance to read ANY of the books from that batch, with the exception of an audiobook, a BBC Radio Production of Agatha Christie’s The Caribbean Mystery (it helped get me out of work-brain back into me-brain every night before bed).

Frankly, the only reason I haven’t succumbed to temptation is that I know myself too well – I am weak when it comes to books, and if I pick up something and get engrossed in it, I’m in for a 3:00 a.m. night. (Which is why the next Dewey 24-hour Readathon, I may very well be participating … although Beth F. makes cheerleading sound like fun, too.)

But here I am again, so soon after the last Library Loot post, writing up another one. I received a few more automated calls from the library over the weekend, and by my mental count, was up to about four books ready and available for pickup. I asked my husband to stop in at the library and grab the books for me on his way home from doing the groceries, and he returned with an enormous bag.

So here we go again!

Mysteries by Deborah Crombie

A Finer End

Dreaming of the Bones

Now May You Weep

Water Like a Stone

All Shall Be Well

Kissed a Sad Goodbye

I suspect that another library patron was on a Deborah Crombie kick right around the time I was looking for more of the Kinkaid/James mysteries, and had signed all these out at the same time. And now I’ve done the same – only I hope there aren’t any holds for these as I will probably end up needing to renew at least some of them!

I have a book blogger to thank for my addiction to Deborah Crombie works, of course. I’m holding Cathy of Kittling Books responsible for getting me back into these books; I’d read the very first Kinkaid and James last summer but had then forgotten about the series. Until I read one or two posts by Cathy about them, that is! After reading one of her reviews, I picked up a few more, and I was hooked. (You can read my review of In a Dark House here.)

The Rest of the Batch

Mystery: Death by Bikini, by Linda Gerber. I can’t remember where I first came across this book, but I suspect the title probably leaped out at me and grabbed me. However it happened, I promptly put this book on my i-want list, and must have quickly added it to my holds request the last time I oh-so-recklessly went online at my library.

Children’s books/Fantasy: Coraline, by Neil Gaiman. This one is probably self-explanatory. I’d like to read it before I get around to seeing the movie …

Memoir: Growing Up Again, by Mary Tyler Moore. Because I am currently, for some unfathomable (to me) reason, on a celebrity-autobiography kick. Don’t ask me why. All I know is, I’ve also got Julie Andrews, William Shatner and Robert Wagner in a stack here, waiting for me too.

And the Audiobooks:

Of course, my list wouldn’t be complete without some audiobooks. This year is my year of audiobooks – I’ve got a post up my sleeve explaining my reasons why. I like Agatha Christie audiobooks a lot, whether or not they’re those fabulous BBC Radio Production dramatizations:

The Listerdale Mystery and Eleven Other Stories, by Agatha Christie, read by Hugh Fraser

One, Two, Buckle My Shoe, by Agatha Christie, read by Hugh Fraser

The Mysterious Mr. Quin, by Agatha Christie, read by Hugh Fraser

And that’s the end of the list … !

I hope to have time during my breaks the next few things to check out everyone else’s Library Loot for this week.

Book Review: In a Dark House, by Deborah Crombie

In a Dark House The Snapshot Review

What I Liked: Complex plot with lots of twists, and great series characters.

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

Ms. Bookish’s Very Quick Take: An intricate mystery that’s difficult to put down, In a Dark House is well worth the read.

Read the Full Review of In a Dark House

Mailbox Monday – March 9, 2009

mailboxHere are the books that arrived at the Ms. Bookish household this past week:

Mystery: Bones, by Jonathan Kellerman. I have read all of Kellerman’s previous Alex Delaware books, and I’m definitely looking forward to this latest one – I’ve been waiting and waiting for it to come out in paperback (which it did before my turn came up for the hardcover version at my local library). Kellerman’s mysteries are complex and intricate, and since I know they’re difficult to put down, I’m waiting for a nice chunk of time when I can sit and read this one from cover to cover. (If I don’t, and give in to impulse, I’m almost guaranteed a 3 am bedtime as a result, and I’m getting a little long in the tooth for that kind of thing these days.)

Romance: Married in Seattle, by Debbie Macomber. I actually bought this book by mistake. I’ve been meaning to read Jodi Picoult, but I couldn’t remember her name (that long in the tooth thing again) and when I saw the name Debbie Macomber, I thought, that must be who I was thinking of. Only it wasn’t.

Mystery: In a Dark House, by Deborah Crombie, via Bookmooch. I just finished reading this a few days ago – the review is on my to-do list. I read the first Kinkaid/James mystery last summer and enjoyed it, and after stumbling on a few reviews of other books in the series, I decided to pick up In a Dark House – and I am extremely glad that I did! I am determined now to read all the books in the series. Yes, it was that good.

Update: Forgot this one (not sure why, since I’m actually in the middle of reading it – oh wait, that long in the tooth thing, again, right?): Chick Lit: It Would Be Funny … If It Wasn’t My Life, by Lisa Dow. This one’s a fun one, so far.

Mailbox Mondays is hosted each Monday over at The Printed Page – it’s a great way to see what other book bloggers are adding to their TBR piles.