Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Review of "Garden of Lamentations" by Deborah Crombie

In this 17th book in the series Detective Superintendent Duncan Kincaid and Detective Inspector Gemma James are married and raising their blended family - three children, two kittens, and a dog - in a house in the suburbs. The detectives no longer work in the same police department and become involved in separate cases.

Gemma investigates the death of a pretty young nanny, Reagan Keating, whose body is found in a private garden shared by a group of houses. At first the nanny's death appears to be an accidental overdose, but the police soon discover she was murdered. The nanny worked in one of the neighborhood homes, looking after an 11-year-old boy and modeling for a tasteful clothing catalogue put out by his parents. The crime isn't in Gemma's jurisdiction, but DI Kerry Boatman 'borrows' her for the inquiry because Gemma knows some of the local residents.

Kerry and Gemma question Reagan's boyfriend, friends, neighbors, employers, and so on - and everyone seems to like the amiable young woman. Thus the detectives are hard-pressed to find a motive for the killing. Then the sleuths hear some scuttlebutt about Reagan seeing 'another man' and learn that the parents of a local boy who died from an asthma attack blame Reagan. These discoveries lead to new areas of investigation, and - after a few twists and surprises - the crime is solved.

Duncan's case is much more complex. His former boss, Chief Superintendent Denis Childs, returns from a long leave of absence and arranges a secret meeting with Duncan. Childs alludes to a criminal conspiracy among bigwigs in the Metropolitan Police Service and warns Duncan to keep his distance.....for his own safety. Right after the meeting Childs is viciously attacked and falls into a coma.

Duncan already knows something is rotten in Scotland Yard. Deputy Assistant Commissioner Angus Craig was recently exposed as a rapist and murderer, after which he allegedly killed his wife and himself. And - after a bombing at London's St. Pancras Station - another detective supposedly committed suicide. Duncan believes all these deaths were murders, and proceeds to investigate. Fearing for the safety of his wife and children, Duncan doesn't confide in Gemma - and the Superintendent's absences from home and secretiveness put a strain on the marriage.

Duncan's current inquiries alternate with flashbacks to the past, when a group of Scotland Yard detectives were recruited to do undercover work for Britain's Special Branch (intelligence service). The 'cop spies' were tasked with infiltrating protest groups that might become troublemakers. However, this wasn't all on the up and up. One undercover cop was pressured to sabotage a group that was protesing the death-by-police of an innocent black man. And the killing of a female undercover agent - probably by the hand of a colleague - was swept under the rug. Clearly, something was rotten in the police service. (All this reminds me a bit of the 2017 American TV series "Shots Fired.")

The author cleverly melds Duncan's present day inquiries with the Special Branch storyline, and corrupt individuals are exposed. Some shocking revelations here!

Regular characters in the series make an appearance, including Gemma's co-worker Melody Talbot - who's now dating a rock star; and Detective Doug Cullen - who helps Duncan with his investigation. The Kincaid children are also on hand: teenage Kit (who cooks and helps keep the family organized); seven-year-old Toby (who's taking ballet lessons); and three-year-old Charlotte (who's sweet and clingy). And the pets are very cute.

One problem I had with the book is the surfeit of secondary characters. Gemma's case involves all the people who live in homes around the garden; some of their business acquaintances; Reagan's friends and acquaintances; children in the neighborhood; etc. And Duncan's inquiries include a large array of cops and supervisors, and some of their wives. With two storylines containing separate sets of characters, it's sometimes hard to remember who's who.

Still, this is a good addition to the series, recommended to mystery fans. Readers familar with the series will get maximum enjoyment, but the book can be read as a standalone.

Rating: 3 stars


  1. I know what you mean about too many characters. It can be done, but carefully.