Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Literary Mystery Novelists—Deborah Crombie

This post will take a slightly different from for this series. Since Deborah Crombie is on book tour right now, a review of her latest book, No Mark Upon Her, will replace the usual author interview.

Here's a link to buy the book.

Deborah Crombie, No Mark Upon Her (William Morrow) 375 pp. ISBN-13: 978-0230750630

Deborah Crombie’s excellent fourteenth mystery novel featuring Detective Superintendent Duncan Kincaid and Detective Inspector Gemma James offers the pleasures of authentic characters, complex plotting, and thorough exploration of little-known facets of British life—in this case, competitive rowing and canine search-and-rescue teams—that readers have learned to expect from Crombie’s books.

Rebecca Meredith, Olympic rowing hopeful and high-ranking detective with the Metropolitan Police, sets out alone to practice on the Thames one evening and never returns. As he is about to take paternity leave, Kincaid is called in when Rebecca’s body is found by a canine search-and-rescue team the next day. His superiors make it clear to Kincaid that his job is to keep a lid on the situation and prevent any embarrassment to the Met itself, but Kincaid insists on making a thorough investigation.

This throws the Kincaid-James domestic situation into crisis. James, who must return from maternity leave without Kincaid to take her place in their home with the children, including their newly adopted three-year-old, leads a different investigation into cold cases of rape that turn out to be related to Rebecca’s murder.

As a murder attempt on the search-and-rescue team member who found Rebecca’s body and had a relationship with her ratchets up the stakes, Kincaid and James risk their careers and their lives to unravel the tangle of deceit that leads deep into the heart of power within the Met.

Crombie uses her gift for lush, poetical recreation of place to good effect, especially in her descriptions of the waterways and the experiences of those who row and live on the river, demonstrating her skill with powerful, telling detail. The peace and beauty of this world that she creates stands in stark opposition to the chaotic, affectionate world of family-and-friend concerns and crises that is the very revealing and believable joint personal life of her two protagonists. As the intricate plot unfolds, even this rich personal world is threatened, making the book one of those mysteries that require the reader to stay up half the night to finish. Readers of Louise Penny and Elizabeth George will enjoy this novel.

Deborah Crombie Bio

Deborah Crombie was born in Dallas and grew up in Richardson, Texas, a suburb north of Dallas, second child of Charlie and Mary Darden. A rather solitary childhood (brother Steve is ten years older) was blessed by her maternal grandmother, Lillian Dozier, a retired teacher who taught her to read very early. After a rather checkered educational career, which included dropping out of high school at sixteen, she graduated from Austin College in Sherman, Texas, with a degree in biology.
She then worked in advertising and newspapers, and attended the Rice University Publishing Program. A post-university trip to England, however, cemented a life-long passion for Britain, and she later immigrated to the UK with her first husband, Peter Crombie, a Scot, living first in Edinburgh, Scotland, and then in Chester, England.

After returning to Dallas and working for several years in her family business (manufacturer’s reps for theatre concessions) while raising her daughter Kayti, she wrote her first Detective Superintendent Duncan Kincaid/Sergeant Gemma James novel. A Share in Death [Scribner, 1993], was subsequently given Agatha and Macavity nominations for Best First Novel of 1993. The fifth novel, Dreaming of the Bones (Scribner 1997), a New York Times Notable Book for 1997, was short-listed by Mystery Writers of America for the 1997 Edgar Award for Best Novel, won the Macavity award for Best Novel, and was voted by the Independent Mystery Booksellers Association as one of the hundred best mysteries of the century. Her subsequent novels have been received with critical acclaim and are widely read internationally, particularly in Germany.

In 2009, Where Memories Lie won the Macavity Award for Best Novel.  In 2010, Necessary as Blood received a Macavity nomination for Best Novel.

Crombie's novels are published in North America, Japan, Germany, Italy, France, Norway, the Netherlands, Czechoslovakia, Spain, Romania, Greece, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and numerous other countries.

Although she travels to England several times a year, Crombie now lives in McKinney, Texas, an historic town north of Dallas, sharing a 1905 house with her husband, Rick Wilson, two German shepherds (Hallie and Neela), and three cats. She is currently working on her fifteenth Duncan Kincaid/Gemma James novel, as yet untitled.

Next week's Literary Mystery Novelists post will deal with Tony Hillerman, one of the great writers whose highly individual works have become classics.


  1. Thanks for recommending another new-to-me author. The Nook now has another book in its library.

  2. Valerie, you will love her books. The series starts with A SHARE IN DEATH, but you can read NO MARK UPON HER without having read the earlier books.

  3. Thanks for the recommendation, Linda. This is a new author for me as well.

  4. Thanks, for stopping by, David. She's a very good writer, and I think you'll like her books.