Where Memories Lie: A Novel
by Deborah Crombie
Review by Carter Jefferson
William Morrow Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780061287510
Date: 01 July 2008 List Price $24.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
Deborah Crombie always comes up with an edgy plot, and the characters in her Scotland Yard police procedurals, whether cops, perps, or victims, are real people, never stereotypes.
In this twelfth novel in her Duncan Kincaid-Gemma James series, an Art Deco brooch lost for fifty years turns up in an auction catalog, setting Gemma on the trail of a cold case that gets very warm indeed when a car crushes one of the auction house employees the day after Gemma begins to ask questions.
World War II seems not so far away when Crombie flashes back to 1952 to show us a determined detective stymied in his search for a killer by someone "higher up". Erika Rosenthal, widow of the victim in that old case, knows something is wrong, but can do nothing. A German Jew, refugee from the Nazi regime, she puts her husband's death behind her and builds a distinguished career as a historian. Then, in her old age, she learns that the brooch, a masterpiece made by her artist father and stolen from her when she was attacked during her escape from Germany, has surfaced at last. She turns to her friend Gemma for help. Only by discovering where that brooch has been hidden can she at last know why and how her husband died.
Gemma goes along, not expecting to succeed in solving a case so long forgotten, but her determination pays off. The more she learns, however, the less she seems to know, and two more informers and suspects die in what might have passed as routine hit-and-run accidents had Gemma never intervened. The new murders bring Kincaid in on the case, and once more the partnership puts the culprit in the hands of justice.
Gemma is the star in this novel. At the beginning of the series she worked for Kincaid, but as the books appeared one after another, she rose in rank and her boss became her lover. This time she leads and he follows as they unravel a complex set of circumstances that show us a world in which the victory over Germany by no means ended the machinations of Nazis who managed to survive and prosper.
What distinguishes Crombie is her ability to bring characters like Erika to life, and to make her hero and heroine real people with problems like those of everyone else--aging parents, children never easy to take care of, career responsibilities, and personal heartaches. As for the villains, they're never Hannibal Lecter types; somehow they find themselves in intolerable positions that make murder seem to be the only way out. The minor characters, the innocent but not always likeable suspects and the cops who assist Kincaid and James, have their own lives, and Crombie gives them room to let us get to know what they are like.
I've reviewed a dozen books for Gumshoe Review. This is the first one I could give an unqualified "Yes!" But that's what I expected. Anyone who has never discovered Crombie should start with her first novel, A Share in Death, and follow Gemma and Duncan through the series. Few readers will be disappointed.