Water Like a Stone Hardcover – Jan 15 2008
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|Hardcover, Jan 15 2008||
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From Publishers Weekly
The start of Crombie's solid 11th contemporary police procedural featuring Duncan Kincaid of Scotland Yard and Gemma James of the Notting Hill Metropolitan Police (after 2004's In a Dark House) finds the two detectives, also romantic partners, in the English countryside with their children to celebrate Christmas with Kincaid's family. But the trip turns into a busman's holiday when Kincaid's sister, Juliet Newcombe, finds the mummified corpse of an infant in the wall of a building she's renovating. That discovery proves but the first of many mysteries that soon invade the quiet Cheshire community—a woman who once worked as a social worker is murdered, and Juliet finds evidence that her own husband and his partner may be embezzlers. Crombie's combination of the fair-play whodunit with a psychological examination of her characters may remind some readers of P.D. James, but her sleuths lack the depth of James's Commander Dalgleish. (Feb.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Although the presence of Scotland Yard detectives Gemma James and Duncan Kincaid provides the glue that ultimately holds Crombie's latest novel together, the pair seems less involved in solving crime this time than in previous adventures. That doesn't stop this multifaceted mystery from being one of the best in Crombie's long-running series. Christmas with Duncan's family proves just as stressful as Gemma feared, though not in the way she anticipated. Moments after arriving at the elder Kincaid's farmhouse, Duncan is called away by his sister, who has discovered the body of an infant entombed in the wall of a building she is renovating. The sad, horrifying discovery sets the stage for a tightly knit, two-pronged tale, which has a retired social worker at its heart. Duncan's teenage son, newly come to live with his father and Gemma, and Duncan's sister, whose family is disintegrating, are in sharp focus here, as is a canal-boat family whose suffering reminds Duncan and Gemma of recent losses of their own. As in books by Elizabeth George and P. D. James, the intriguing personal relationships and family dynamics drive this well-crafted, impressive mystery-drama. Stephanie Zvirin
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Although the complexity of the plot strains believability, most of the characters are compelling and realistic. (In fact, I was surprisingly moved by the fate of one character.) The local police are so completely fleshed out that it wouldn't surprise me if Ms Crombie started a DCI Babcock series. Ms. Crombie seems to know her Cheshire very well--she evokes its canals and towns beautifully, and with apparent affection. Altogher, an enjoyable read.
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.
Crombie uses a third person point of view better than anyone, allowing you to see inside the heads of the participants and understand why they're doing what they are doing in a way that makes perfect sense... only you know that if each knew what the others did, they'd realize much sooner what evil is among them. Even the childrens' and teenagers' actions are portrayed with empathy -- yes, sometimes, they behave like perfect idiots, but Crombie helps you remember what it was like to be so unsure but so desperately needful of seeming to know everything.
The book paints a fascinating picture of the narrow boats on the English canals, and I realized then how many of her books had managed to bring to life a part of the English countryside that isn't usually talked about in guide books or glossy brochures.
Crombie has a rare gift for blending dialoge, action and scenery so seamlessly that you feel you were there. Can't wait for the next one!