Except for Martha Grimes, I don't usually go in for English mystery series, the sort of thing with continuing characters and starring a Scotland Yard investigator, nor have I read any others in this series. But I can see why this novel was voted a New York Times Notable Book of the Year and why it was nominated for both the Edgar and the Agatha.
Detective Superintendent Duncan Kincaid has been divorced for twelve years, his life is ticking right along, and he has a nicely developing romance with his sergeant, Gemma James. And then he hears from his ex-wife, Victoria, now a professor of modern English poetry at Cambridge, who has been researching a biography of Lydia Brooke, who died in what Victoria has come to believe are suspicious circumstances a few years before. She wants Duncan's help, and he agrees, to Gemma's consternation. Sounds like a pretty routine plot, doesn't it? It's not, believe me. Where most writers in this genre concentrate on the plot, with characters who are less than three-dimensional, or (again, like Martha Grimes) develop wonderful characters but tend to stint the mystery itself, Crombie succeeds very well at both. Duncan and Gemma and Victoria all come alive, as do the supporting players, and you won't guess at the solution to the mystery until the denouement, either. By the end of the book, Duncan's life has become permanently more complicated, and I want to know what happens next! (Obviously, I'm going to have to go back and read the first four books in this series before tackling the sixth one.)