Sunday, February 19, 2023

A Killing of Innocents, by Deborah Crombie

This book is published by William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins. I was very glad to see that the HarperCollins workers' union (Local 2110 UAW) reached an agreement with the publisher this week after more than three months on strike. The union did not ask people to boycott HarperCollins books, but many readers refused to review or publicize HC books in solidarity. This was the first HC book I've had to write about since getting back to blogging.

This is the 19th book in Deborah Crombie's long-running series of police procedurals, featuring married police officers Gemma James and Duncan Kincaid. In the early books, Gemma was part of Duncan's team at Scotland Yard. As their relationship became personal, they kept it secret until Gemma earned a promotion and moved to her own team. In later books their cases often overlap, or one or the other finds a reason to get involved.

The previous book, A Bitter Feast, was published back in 2019, and I had started to wonder if it might be the last. I was very pleasantly surprised to see a new book announced for April of this year, and it immediately went on my "52 books" list. It was an even bigger surprise when the publication was moved up to early February. I had started re-reading some of the more recent books in the series, since it's been a good while, and I'm glad I started with A Bitter Feast, because I didn't have as much time for re-reading as I'd planned!

A Killing of Innocents takes place a few months after the last book, so before COVID. It's apparently set in 2018, since there is a reference to Lin-Manuel Miranda in "Mary Poppins Returns." In such a long-running series, with the first published in 1993, I don't think that Deborah Crombie is tying the books to a current timeline.

The story opens in London with the death of a young doctor in training, Sasha Johnson. She is stabbed one evening while walking through a crowded Russell Square, and the only one who even notices her fall to the ground is a five-year-old boy. The case falls to Duncan and his team out of the Holborn station. As always, the story has a real sense of place, with a beautifully detailed map of the area of the investigations. Running parallel with the investigations are side stories with Duncan's team, particularly his sergeant Doug, Gemma and her sergeant Melody, and Gemma and Duncan's blended family of three children, and their family and friends. It was lovely to meet these characters again and to catch up with their lives, but I could see it might be a little confusing to a new reader. There are also new characters to follow, particularly Duncan's team in Holborn, with sections written from their points of view. It does take the focus of Gemma and Duncan, though they remain central to the story.

While the mystery is resolved very neatly, the story ended with two minor cliffhangers, for Duncan and Gemma and also for Melody. This isn't the first time Deborah Crombie has done this. I remember that the last page of The Sound of Broken Glass had me quickly flipping through the blank end pages, unable to believe that there wasn't more. The cliffhangers here give me hope that Deborah Crombie has another book in mind.

N.B. This was book #4 in my "52 books for 2023", and well worth a place.

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Thank you for taking the time to read, and to comment. I always enjoy hearing different points of view about the books I am reading, even if we disagree!