Necessary as Blood
by Deborah Crombie
Review by Cathy Green
William Morrow Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780061287534
Date: 01 October 2009 List Price $24.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James are back in Necessary As Blood, the latest novel in the series from Deborah Crombie. Because Duncan and Gemma openly are in a relationship, they no longer work together as a team and have combined their households by this point in the series. This means that there has to be a good reason, such as overlapping jurisdictions or related cases, for them to act together in their professional capacities.
In Necessary As Blood, Crombie solves this problem by having the murder case assigned to Duncan Kincaid and his team at Scotland Yard but with Gemma James being involved at the start due to her friends Tim and Hazel Cavendish knowing the murder victim. The novel opens with fabric artist Sandra Malik working on a new piece and taking her daughter Charlotte out for a walk through an East End market on their way to meet Naz, Sandra's husband and Charlotte's father, for lunch. Sandra leaves Charlotte with a friend to meet someone, promising to be back soon, and disappears.
Several months later, when Tim Cavendish is unable to reach Naz, who is very late picking up his daughter from the babysitter, he calls Gemma for help. Later, Naz turns up dead. While Detective Inspector Weller, who also investigated Sandra's disappearance, assumes that it must be suicide as a result of what happened to Sandra; but the medical examiner insists that it was murder. Gemma is at the scene as a courtesy, having been notified by DI Weller, after having contacted him about Naz's disappearance. Weller becomes worried that he missed something important in his earlier investigation of Sandra's disappearance and calls in the Yard. Duncan Kincaid and his team are assigned the case.
In addition to the standard police procedural aspects of the investigation, Crombie also spends a significant portion of the novel on Duncan and Gemma's home life, their blended family, and her relatives. The disintegrating marriage of Gemma's friends receives substantial attention as well. The break-up of the Cavendish marriage is relevant to the plot because everything Tim tells Gemma and Duncan about Naz and Sandra's marriage, especially his insistence that that Naz could never hurt Sandra, must be viewed through the lens of his possible idealization of the Maliks' marriage as a response to the unexpected and rancorous disintegration of his own.
As part of his investigation into Naz's murder, Duncan reopens the investigation into Sandra's disappearance, at which point things get very complicated and, as Duncan puts it, they "seem to be accumulating missing persons at an alarming rate." Ultimately, all the crimes are solved and certain issues between Duncan and Gemma are resolved as well. As usual, Crombie neatly wraps up all her plot threads in a satisfying whole. Necessary As Blood is part of an ongoing series of thirteen books so far. The murder mystery stands completely on its own. A new reader or a lapsed reader coming back to the series might find it a bit difficult to follow everything going on in Duncan and Gemma's personal lives. By way of example, I seem to have missed the two novels immediately preceding this one and therefore had several "was I supposed to know about that?" moments involving Gemma and her mother. Fortunately, Crombie gives enough background information to allow the new or returning reader to get up to date quickly. The information about Gemma was particularly important because her having had a miscarriage explains in part why she becomes so caught up in the issue of who gets custody of Charlotte Malik. This was an engrossing novel.
I read it on the train from DC to NYC; I started reading in Baltimore and became so caught up in the plot that I did not notice the interim stops until the train reached Trenton. Fortunately, I was going to the end of the line, but I was a little disconcerted to realize that I'd become so absorbed in the book that I had missed two entire states. Highly recommended.