The central geographical theme in this newest book from Deborah Crombie is the area of South London known as Crystal Palace and its environs, with each chapter preceded by some fascinating information. It certainly has historical importance, originally known for the site of The Great Exhibition, a great iron and glass building moved to Crystal Palace Park in 1854 and destroyed by fire on November 30, 1936. Its importance in the present-day tale spun so wonderfully here, however, is as a crime scene, when DI Gemma James is called to investigate the murder of a well-respected barrister found in a seedy hotel in the district, naked, trussed, and apparently strangled.
At irregular intervals, there are flashback scenes in the same geographical area taking place fifteen years in the past, when a 13-year-old boy is befriended by his next-door neighbor, a young widow, providing a lifeline of sorts for the lonely youngster, whose alcoholic mother has little time for him. The connection with present-day events becomes clear much later in the book.
The personal life of Gemma and her husband, DS Duncan Kincaid, and their blended family, primarily their 3-year-old foster daughter, Charlotte, is once again a major part of the plot. He is now on leave from Scotland Yard to be primary caretaker of Charlotte and the other family members, the boys, Kit and Toby, and their assorted animals: Sid the cat, the terrier Tess, and the cocker spaniel Geordie. Things become complicated when Duncan realizes he has a personal connection with one of the suspects, and a second, similar murder takes place.
This is a thoroughly enjoyable novel, much like the prior books in the series, which is high praise indeed. The plotting is complex and suspense-filled, the characters wonderfully well-drawn, and the book is recommended....Continua