NO MARK UPON HER
By Deborah Crombie
Crime fiction (British police procedural)
A seasoned world-class athlete decides to return to her sport. She will need time away from her demanding career, but she may just have the leverage she needs for that. However, Becca Meredith's Olympic potential as a rower will not be measured, nor will she need a sabbatical from her Metropolitan Police job. Instead, she is found dead on the Thames, separated from her scull.
Her murder rips open deceit upon deceit and more than one kind of betrayal when Detective Superintendent Duncan Kincaid is assigned to investigate. It's a case Kincaid takes on reluctantly in the 14th book in Deborah Crombie's traditional British police procedural series. He not only has just married his partner, Gemma James, who also is a Scotland Yard detective, but their blended family has grown and at least one of them needs to be at home to help a scarred, scared three-year-old they adore. Gemma is just coming off her leave and Duncan is ready to be a househusband -- if this case and office politics at The Yard allow him to keep his word.
Keeping his word is something that matters a great deal to Kincaid. In this case, that could have lasting repercussions against not only himself, but his wife. Both during the unfolding of the investigation and in the first consequence that directly affects James, this is where the suspense of the novel lies.
Crombie has done a brilliantly effective job creating two main characters in Kincaid and James. These characters are exceptionally decent without being the least bit sanctimonious or starchy. In a case such as this one, when there is banal evil amongst those in society who should be the most trustworthy, their willingness to just get on with it, getting angry without pulling stunts and staying true to who they are shows how it is possible to create realistic crime fiction that displays both the best and worst in human nature without being maudlin or sensationalistic. Other characters, including the deputies of Kincaid and James, and others who are deeply touched by Meredith's murder, are drawn as complex people who seek redemption and healing. There is the feeling that their stories do not end with the last page here. And for those who have not yet read any in the series, this is a good place to begin. Chances are these readers not only will look forward to new installments, but will seek out the earlier titles.
Like all practioners of this art, Crombie's series delves into the psychological whys of deliberate death. Crombie uses this kind of storytelling, which she does very well, to combine the personal and the professional in the way the case unfolds to affect Kinkaid and James. When so many of those in power are corrupt, it was perhaps inevitable that this series involving such decent lead characters would find themselves up against corrupt power.
It's going to be fascinating to see how this plays out. Just as the denoument of this case has its twists and turns, and is not numbingly obvious, chances are the author will do the same in the continuing story of her characters.
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