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Monday, March 12, 2012

No Mark Upon Her by Deborah Crombie

No Mark Upon Her by Deborah Crombie
Published by William Morrow ISBN 978-0-06-199061-8
Hardcover $25.99

I was surprised to discover that Deborah Crombie, author of No Mark Upon Her, the 14th in her Duncan Kinkaid/Gemma James Scotland Yard detective series, lives in Texas. This is the first of her books I have read, I would have bet my bottom dollar that the author was as British as Queen Elizabeth and scones with clotted cream. I would have lost that bet.

How could any author who peppers her novel with such phrases as "taking the mickey" out of someone, which means to tease, and "dab hand in the kitchen", meaning someone who knows her way around the kitchen, not be British? I enjoy learning new words and phrases, and I got a lot of new vocabulary from this book. (Maybe they'll use some of the words in the next season of Downton Abbey.)

I do have to admit being a little lost in the beginning of this book. A female police detective is found dead after she goes out rowing one evening. Becca Meredith is secretly training for the upcoming Olympics, and it was unlikely that she accidentally drowned.

I know nothing about rowing, and it would helped immensely to have been somewhat familiar with the sport, as many of the characters, including police detectives, were. It also would have helped to have read some of the other books in the series, as there is a lot of backstory and relationships among characters that I didn't know about.

That being said, I'm glad I stuck with the book. There are a lot of characters here, and after awhile I was able to sort them all out and enjoy the author's ride. I like Duncan and Gemma and their patchwork family: Kit (Duncan's son), Toby (Gemma's son) and Charlotte (their foster child). They are newly married, and their efforts to work out the logistics of marriage, family, child care and work issues rang true to me.

Becca's death peels back some unsavory layers, like an onion. Her ex-husband had some shady financial dealings and would profit from her death via an insurance policy. Becca was secretly dating an Iraq war vet who worked on boats at the rowing club she belonged to. Was the women's crew coach upset because Becca could possibly take the spot of one of his rowers on the Olympic team? And what about the deputy police commissioner whom Becca accused of rape last year?  Someone Becca arrested? The list of suspects is lengthy.

Duncan Kincaid is an ethical man, and he puts his all into finding out who murdered Becca. Although his wife Gemma is still on family leave, she and her colleague Melody uncover some evidence that help point Duncan's investigation in a dangerous direction.

With the plethora of suspects, the author successfully keeps the identity of the killer, as well as the motive under wraps until the end. I admire Crombie's skill as a mystery writer, as I dislike being able to guess the killer halfway through the story. She kept me interested in the mystery and the story of Duncan and Gemma and their lovely family.

My favorite character though was Kieran, the Iraq war vet and rescue searcher. He seemed like a lost soul, but his relationship with his dog, and with Tavie, another rescue searcher, was touching. It's obvious that the author had a special affinity for this quiet hero.

I will keep my eye out for more of Crombie's Kincaid/James series, especially when I'm in the mood for  a little Brit lit mystery.

rating 4 of 5

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