First line: "In the first moment of waking, he had no idea who he was."
In her sixteenth go round with the Duncan Kincaid/Gemma James duo, Deborah Crombie packs an explosive punch, both literally and figuratively.
Melody Talbot, Gemma's detective sergeant is in St. Pancras concourse to watch her boyfriend, Andy, perform a live concert when a great explosion rocks the entire concourse. Melody reacts with officer instincts and moves toward the explosion while everyone else is stampeding away. As she breaks through the mob with the help of a good samaritan, she discovers a man burning to death as a result of the white phosphorus grenade he was holding. The individual who ignited the bomb is beyond help--and beyond recognition, but others in the area have been hurt so the authorities and medical personnel are summoned.
St. Pancras is now part of Detective Superintendent Duncan Kincaid's patch in his new assignment at Holborn Police Station. So when a young woman comes in to declare a friend missing since the explosion, Kincaid's the man she must talk to. The young woman along with her friends were protesting that day and Ryan Marsh, one of their group, was supposed to ignite a smoke bomb in order to attract the attention of the media present for the music concert. Ryan hasn't been seen since just before the chaos ensued.
Ryan Marsh poses a new mystery for Kincaid, there doesn't seem to be any trace of him anywhere. On the QT, Kincaid's friend and former colleague Doug starts digging into the possibility that Marsh is an undercover cop.
Meanwhile, a new possibility for the explosion victim arises when another young woman--also a part of the group of young protesters--comes in to declare her boyfriend also missing. Kincaid's responsibilities in the case continue to pile up: identify the victim, locate the missing individual who is not the victim, find out how and why a wp grenade was mistaken for a smoke bomb. And do it all while adjusting to a new detective sergeant who doesn't seem to like Kincaid much.
While Kincaid is up to his neck in questions surrounding his case, Gemma is certain she knows who committed the rape and murder of young girl, but there's no forensic evidence to support her. She struggles to find an overlooked clue or a new angle, so they can arrest the monster responsible.
On the homefront, Toby and Kit discover a frail mother cat in the garden shed who has just given birth to a litter of kittens. The Kincaid/James household just got a little bigger.
Deborah Crombie has a stellar talent for weaving a complex story together in about 300 pages. She manages to tell two mysteries and develop infinite interpersonal relationships without losing her readers. Instead she pulls them deeper into the world of her British duo and interlocks all the pieces so that a complete image is created when the puzzle comes together.
The dynamics of character relationships are as engrossing as the who-dunnit. The Kincaid/James children offer an element of innocence and hope that opposes the darkness and despair they adults most often see in their career world. The children's dialogue is authentic and unguarded, offering insight only young minds can provide.
But as I gush over the character relationships in the book, I don't want to neglect the strength of the plot. The suspense is well developed with aptly placed plot twists, red herrings and a limited narrator; this all works to keep the pace swift. The psychological elements of Crombie's novels heighten the intensity for a thrilling crime novel.
A few little extra details I feel are worth mentioning include the map on the end papers. It's a great resource to understand the geography, especially for a reader like me who has no working knowledge of London. The other is Crombie's attention to detail down to the pets. As an animal lover, I'm acutely aware of their role in novels. In this particular one, Erika, an elderly friend of the family makes a choice about kittens that is so well considered. It's probably a small detail that most will glance over, but for me I was moved by Crombie's thoughtfulness in its inclusion.
While there are elements that weave through the books in the series, To Dwell in Darkness, can easily be read and enjoyed without any background, with some background or of course with all the background. I came to this series late, but am very glad I finally made it. I thoroughly enjoy these books.
To Dwell in Darkness is available in hardcover (ISBN: 978-0062271600) from William Morrow. It is also available as an unabridged audiobook (ISBN: 978-1482992434), narrated by Gerard Doyle, from Blackstone Audio.
My review of To Dwell in Darkness is part of the TLC blog tour. You can find the entire list of blogs participating in this tour on their site. And you can find Deborah Crombie at her website, blogging at Jungle Red Writers or on Facebook and Twitter. She was also a Five on Friday guest here awhile back. If you missed that, be sure to check it out.
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.