A Share In Death, by Deborah Crombie

>> Saturday, August 25, 2012

TITLE: A Share In Death
AUTHOR: Deborah Crombie

COPYRIGHT: 1993
PAGES: 288
PUBLISHER: Avon

SETTING: Contemporary (well, early 90s) England
TYPE: Mystery
SERIES: 1st in the Kincaid/James series

A week's holiday in a luxurious Yorkshire time-share is just what Scotland Yard's Superintendent Duncan Kincaid needs. But the discovery of a body floating in the whirlpool bath ends Kincaid's vacation before it's begun. One of his new acquaintances at Followdale House is dead; another is a killer. Despite a distinct lack of cooperation from the local constabulary, Kincaid's keen sense of duty won't allow him to ignore the heinous crime, impelling him to send for his enthusiastic young assistant, Sergeant Gemma James. But the stakes are raised dramatically when a second murder occurs, and Kincaid and James find themselves in a determined hunt for a fiendish felon who enjoys homicide a bit too much.
Newly-minted Superintendent Duncan Kincaid has just come off a grueling case. When his cousin offers him the chance to use his week at a time-share in a luxury villa-type place in Yorkshire, it sounds like a good idea. And initially, it is. The place is beautiful, the weather is great, and the other guests (or rather, owners, this being a time-share) are quite diverse, which makes for an interesting time observing them.

All is well until the morning, when the corpse of one of those people he's just met is discovered in the pool. The inept and bullying local Inspector thinks it's a suicide, but Kincaid is certain from the start that it wasn't. He doesn't mean to take over the case, but he keeps coming across relevant evidence, and talking to people who happen to say relevant things. And then a second person is killed, and there's no doubt that one is a murder.

Meh. This was a quick read, and to its credit, it entertained me enough to keep me turning the pages, but it just wasn't very good. It's predictable, with plot "twists" telegraphed and no real surprises, and I had issues with the writing and characterisation. There are some moments that read a bit awkwardly, and a few characters that didn't ring true and acted in ways that defied my suspension of disbelief (especially the policeman formally in charge of the investigation, Nash, who crossed the line into unbelievable cartoon in his bizarre and naked hostility to Kincaid).

There were also a couple of WTF moments, like when a female suspect is being interrogated by Kincaid about a particular encounter with another suspect, her lover, with whom she was trying to end things. From what she tells Kincaid, he punched her (she has a black eye), and she says she wasn't exactly willing when they had sex. Kincaid doesn't seem to disbelieve her, but he doesn't even react. Mate, the woman is reporting a rape, and she was beaten up! And you do nothing?

The British setting also felt a bit off. Within 50 pages I was convinced the author was American, and looking at the bio, I was right. It's not awful, and it's hard to pinpoint issues (apart from language -sweater, etc.- and everyone's confident expectation that the weather would be nice, and in Yorkshire, in September!) but it's pretty obvious, even to someone who's only lived here for a few years.

On the basis of just this book, which was, quite simply, mediocre, I wouldn't continue reading the series. The thing is, I've heard really good things about the series as a whole, and some books have been nominated for big prizes, so I expect it improves. When I was reading about the series, I saw it referred as the Gemma Jones series in some places (Gemma is Kincaid's sergeant, who asssists him in the investigation here, but remains a distinctly minor character), and there's supposed to be a nice, slowly-developing relationship between her and Kincaid, which could be interesting. So anyway, I would very much appreciate feedback about how quickly the series improves and how good it gets, to see if it's worth investing the time. Too many other series to try, otherwise!

MY GRADE: A C+ (with the plus being for the readability).

9 comments:

Liz Mc2 25 August 2012 07:04  

I read and enjoyed this series regularly for a while, but I'm not sure whether I started at the beginning. Maybe from book 3 or 4 until 9 or so I was really engaged by it, and then I lost interest. Gemma is more interesting to me than Duncan (though he gets more interesting too) so I liked it when she became a more prominent character. I am pretty sure you could skip ahead a couple of books without missing much, if you're the kind of person who can skip in a series.

Eventually I lost interest, I think because I was interested in the personal developments for the characters as much as the mysteries. And at a certain point, their histories became TOO complex and I couldn't remember who everyone was from book to book and stopped bothering. I don't think it was ever as good for me as, say, Peter Robinson's Inspector Banks series (which I also like as much for tracking the characters' lives as for the mysteries) or even Julia Spencer-Fleming.

Rosario 25 August 2012 08:39  

Thanks for this Liz. Hmmm, not sure what to do. I think I might give her another chance. Book 5 seems to have been nominated for a bunch of awards, so that might be a good one to jump to.

And you do know that I'll now have to try Peter Robinson, right? :-D

Barb in Maryland 25 August 2012 21:41  

My husband and I have read almost the entire series--I read them as they came out; my husband recently glommed them.
It has its ups and downs, that's for sure. We both gave up with book 9 (Now May You Weep)--which is full of really unpleasant people.
I picked it back up again with book 13(Necessary as Blood, which was very good)and felt like I hadn't missed much. The most recent one (Book 14--No Mark Upon Her) borders on great.

I can second Liz's rec of Julia Spencer-Fleming. But her books aren't British police procedurals, but set in New York state.

BTW--I never could get into PD James or Elizabeth George and gave up on Martha Grimes years ago. Haven't tried Peter Robinson...(goes off to make a list.....)

Darlynne,  25 August 2012 23:52  

The only Crombie book I read was Dreaming of the Bones. Most all my mystery-reading friends loved her series and I just never got around to them. I did, however, really enjoy this one and it helped, perhaps, that the audio book was read by an English narrator. If the written voice was too American, I honestly didn't notice. And the plot was sufficiently complicated to stay interesting.

You know who no one reads any more, probably because only the first two books are available, is Alison G. Taylor. The crime series is set in north Wales--a terrific change of scenery--the investigators are the kind of people you'd like to know and the crimes are unusual. Simeon's Bride is the first, PBO only in the US, Kindle in the UK, and I'd love it if more readers found Ms. Taylor's work. For that matter, I wish she'd write more, it's been too long.

Barb in Maryland 26 August 2012 02:16  

Well, phooo
Oh course you know about Julia Spenser-Fleming! You have reviewed her books!! (Never mind.....)

Rosario 26 August 2012 09:30  

Barb: Thanks for that! Do you think book 5, Dreaming of the Bones, might be a good one to try next? Or would I be skipping too much? My library system has all of them, as far as I can see.

I never tried Martha Grimes, but I read PD James and Elizabeth George for many years, mostly because the English-language bookshops in Uruguay had all their titles (their selection was very hit-or-miss!). I liked the mysteries in the PD James books, but thought her detective was priggish and annoying. Elizabeth George's books I really liked at first, but I got sick of them after a while -everyone was so determined to be miserable!

PS - Yep, LOVE Julia Spencer-Fleming!

Rosario 26 August 2012 09:40  

Darlynne: Ok, sounds like Dreaming of the Bones might be a good one to try, then!

I have to confess, I've never even heard of Alison Taylor. I like the sound of a North Wales setting. I'm very close to that area here in Liverpool -quite a few of my colleagues actually live there and commute to Liverpool every day! Anyway, my library has all of them other than Simeon's Bride. Is it necessary to read that one or would I be ok starting with a later one?

Barb in Maryland 26 August 2012 16:04  

Hmmm, interesting question...
Dreaming of the Bones is great--good mystery. Gemma and Duncan have almost gotten their relationship sorted out by now and this case certainly throws them a curve. Read a good synopsis of book 4 (Mourn Not Your Dead) and you should be up to speed.

As with most long running series, you eventually have to remind yourself of how much time has actually passed in the lives of the characters. Book 1 came out in 1993, book 14 came out in 2011, yet the lives of our characters have only advanced several years (5 at the most). One of the drawbacks, I guess, of having read each book as it came out. My husband (who read them over the course of a year)didn't have that same disconnect.

Rosario 27 August 2012 13:43  

Thanks for that, Barb!

So true about long-running series. I keep having to do that with the In Death series!

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