29 of 32 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
The previous Duncan Kincaid/ Gemma James installment, IN A DARK HOUSE, masterfully knitted together four plot skeins and kept readers on the edge of their seats. Just released WATER LIKE A STONE, # 11 in the series, reverts to a construction more like that of NOW MAY YOU WEEP, the ninth book which revolved around friends and family rather than around cases assigned to the copper couple. As a result, WATER LIKE A STONE is a less complex procedural -- although it is by no means simple -- as it concentrates on the more personal lives of the family.
This time, the blended Kincaid/James family motors to the Barbury home of Duncan's parents to spend the Christmas holidays. As they arrive on Christmas Eve, Duncan's sister, whose troubled, splintering family lives in neighboring Nantwich discovers an infant's desiccated remains in a barn she and her construction crew are renovating. So, in the midst of family introductions and familiarization, Duncan reconnects with a childhood friend who is now the chief inspector in charge of this investigation and watches a bit enviously from the sidelines as the local police work the case.
Duncan and his son, Kit, also meet a narrowboat owner named Annie, whom they both find intriguing. She, a retired social worker, offers to take them for a boat ride if they return while she is moored nearby. We get to know her fairly intimately, just as we do others in the story. Annie is the "elum" (helm), if you will, of the book: all the branches of the story steer through her.
The younger set plays a significant role in WATER LIKE A STONE. Kit's teenage cousin, Lally, is a wild girl whose destructive behavior worsens due to the turmoil between her parents. Kit's desire to help her lands him in mortal peril at the tale's climax. Of all the plot threads in the novel, this one appeals to this reader the least. Too many mysteries in books, movies, and television, resort to plots about out-of-control young people these days. But, thankfully, Crombie does not portray all the teenagers as witless or without conscience.
WATER LIKE A STONE shines more for its human relationship building -- especially within the sensitive Kincaid clan -- than for crime suspense. Reading about the Christmas traditions of the family, about the tentative and careful ways most of them pick to acquaint themselves for the first time, or again, is a joy. After all, in a series like this, getting a deeper intuition into the make-up of the lead characters and those they love and cherish fuels most readers. The reality that the identity of the primary perp can be guessed fairly early in the game doesn't notably cripple the novel's enjoyment factor; and happily *all* the secrets of the book can't be teased out with any certainty before they are revealed by the author.
One oddity in the text could be changed in the paperback edition: the investigating chief inspector refers to himself as "Detective Superintendent" on page 224. Nothing in the plot supports this statement: he hasn't been promoted mid-book. It could be considered a wishful slip of the tongue because Duncan is a superintendent, but it is most likely merely a minor error that wasn't caught by editing.
Sincere thanks to Laura Hartman Maestro, the artist who furnished the beautiful and often referenced illustrated maps on the book's end papers. This finely rendered touch truly enhances the experience of reading WATER LIKE A STONE.
The structural greatness of IN A DARK HOUSE really couldn't be topped, so Crombie's wise shift to a more personal tale in WATER LIKE A STONE convincingly satisfies and pleases!
Highly recommended, with the caveat that, were there the choice, I would actually rate this book four and a half enthusiastic stars rather than a full five.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
Deborah Crombie's "Water Like a Stone" is set during Christmas season in Nantwich, England. Scotland Yard Superintendent Duncan Kincaid and his partner, Detective Inspector Gemma James of the Metropolitan Police, along with their children, thirteen-year-old Kit and five-year-old Toby, are visiting Duncan's parents for the holidays. Duncan's sister, Juliet Newcombe, is having serious marital problems and her unhappy adolescent daughter, Lally, is going through a rebellious phase. When Juliet finds the mummified body of a baby in an old barn that she is renovating, she calls Duncan. Although he is far out of his jurisdiction, Duncan lends a hand to his old friend, Chief Inspector Ronnie Babcock, and Gemma also makes a vital contribution to the case. Later, Duncan's son finds the body of a murder victim, and the police attempt to track down the killer before he strikes again.
"Water Like a Stone" is a satisfying balance of family drama, murder mystery, and atmospheric fiction. Although she was born and educated in Texas, Crombie's vivid description of Nantwich's historic buildings and waterways and her skillful use of British vernacular will convince uninitiated readers that the author is a native of the British Isles. There is an intriguing subplot about a group of people who live on narrowboats: Annie Lebow, a disenchanted former social worker, has chosen an isolated life on her expensive and beautifully outfitted craft, while Gabriel Wain, a poor working man, struggles to make ends meet while he cares for his terminally ill wife. Wain is bitter because of the many unpleasant encounters he has had with insensitive bureaucrats and medical professionals. Annie and Gabriel have met in the past, and fate once again brings them together.
Crombie explores the nuances of interpersonal relationships brilliantly. Duncan and Gemma love one another but they still must deal with some unresolved issues. Duncan's son, Kit, is behaving oddly and his school performance has suddenly declined, much to his father's consternation. Juliet Newcombe despises her arrogant husband, Caspar; he treats her with contempt and is turning their children against her. In contrast, Duncan's loving parents, Hugh and Rosemary Kincaid, can practically finish one another's sentences after being happily married for many years. Caspar's slimy partner, Piers Dutton, indulges his troubled fourteen-year-old son, Leo, who is a born troublemaker. Most of the people in this novel, whatever their age and marital status, struggle with feelings of loneliness, fear, and uncertainty. The author skillfully digs into each individual's psyche; she shows how villainy and virtue take root as a result of genetics, upbringing, and one's unique personal history. The book's sole flaw is an ending that is a bit too neat and predictable. Still, "Water Like a Stone" is another fast-paced, engrossing, and suspenseful installment in the superior Duncan Kincaid/Gemma James series.