First line: "It had been years since she'd been in an English church."
The Sound of Broken Glass marks Deborah Crombie's fifteenth go round with Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James.
Detective Superintendent Kincaid is on leave to take care of the couple's young foster daughter, Charlotte, who is having difficulties adjusting to her new life. Attempts at pre-school have failed miserably and the British copper is starting to worry about how he'll be able to leave the tot and get back to work.
Detective Inspector James, meanwhile, is heading up the murder investigation of a barrister. After a verbal altercation in a Crystal Palace pub, he's found bound, gagged, naked and dead in a nearby seedy hotel where he's been a regular customer on the register as "Mr. Smith."
As Gemma and her Detective Sergeant Melody Talbot dig deeper into the life of the barrister, they find a rather unlikeable individual. And before they can find a solid suspect, another barrister is found murdered in the same fashion.
Gemma and Melody employ some unorthodox approaches to this case that continues to lead them further into a labyrinth of secrets and deceptions, where each new clue only seems to create more questions.
Despite this being the fifteenth book of the series, newcomers can still easily pick up The Sound of Broken Glass and appreciate the strengths of Crombie's writing and the appeal of this series. The crime that the plot builds on does not need background from previous books, even though there are some returning characters.
That being said, one of the strongest elements of this novel--and the series--is the interpersonal elements of Kincaid, James, and their family, as well as Talbot and Kincaid's partner Doug Cullen. New readers will have no trouble grasping each person's fit into the complete puzzle, but the depth of their characters is likely to entice newbies to track down earlier books in the series to see everyone's progression to the present.
Readers familiar with the series will appreciate Crombie's skill of creating empathetic characters when they encounter those that are new and/or less familiar. She may be looking for a way to weave some new faces into recurring roles, or at least readers will hope so. These are characters that will steal hearts and possibly break hearts. But even characters with roles so small that we never see them--a French shopkeeper that Gemma merely quotes--provide a special flare to the book.
Enticing readers to connect with her characters is a fine way to keep engagement with the story high, but Crombie also weaves a grand mystery. In this contribution to the series, she effectively uses flashback to build suspense and intrigue. Readers will want to discover the final solution, but that desire is intensified because they care about the outcome for the characters, not just their own curiosity.
Finally, Crombie makes special use of her setting, weaving England's history into her characters' history and then into the present. The various layers and symbols blend together for a fascinating education wrapped up in entertainment.
Whether new to the series or a long-time fan, The Sound of Broken Glass is sure to please. And Crombie's resolution indicates she has no plan to let up on the quality. These law enforcement agents can rest assured of job security. Crime fans rejoice!
The Sound of Broken Glass is now available in trade paperback (ISBN: 9780061990649) from William Morrow. And unabridged audio version (ISBN: 9780062249746), narrated by Gerard Doyle, is available for download through Audible.
My review of The Sound of Broken Glass is part of the TLC Book Tour. You can see what other readers have to say about the book, by visiting the TLC website to see the complete tour.
Disclosure: I do some contractual work for one of the owners of TLC Blog Tours. My work does not involve this tour or any other tour I would agree to be a part of here at the blog. Nor does my work with them obligate me to a specific kind of review. The reviews are still my own opinions and reflect only my thoughts on the novels. If you care to read more, you can find more information on my Disclosure page.