No Mark Upon Her by Deborah Crombie

The story, the fourteenth in the series that Deborah Crombie has spun around Detective Superintendent Duncan Kincaid and Detective Inspector Gemma James, opens with a compelling piece of writing:

“Heart thumping, she moved across the cottage’s shadowy garden and through the gate that led out onto the Thames Path. Tendrils of mist were beginning to rise from the water. The river had a particular smell in the evenings, damp and alive and somehow primeval. The gunmetal surface of the water looked placid as a pond, but she knew that for an illusion. The current, swift here as the river made its way towards the roar of the weir below Hambleden Mill, was a treacherous trap for the unwary or the overconfident ….”

Rebecca Meredith worked the Metropolitan Police, and she had risen to the rank of Detective Chief Inspector, but she was ready to take a career break. Because her first love had been rowing; she was going to go back to that, and she was going to do everything she could to reach the Olympics. That was why she went out, alone, to train on the river in Henley on a dark afternoon in late October.

Rebecca didn’t come back. And when the Search & Rescue Team found her body it was clear that there had been foul play.

no Mark Upon herDuncan Kincaid had been on annual leave, after his and Gemma’s wedding, but he was sent in to lead the investigation. Because Scotland Yard wanted one of their own. A safe paid of hands.

Becca’s ex husband is the most obvious suspect. And he word of elite rowing is ferociously competitive. But Duncan learns from Becca’s colleagues that she had, in private, made serious allegations against a very senior police officer; and that she had been ready to make those allegations public.

He found himself being steered in a particular direction, but he resisted.

A well though out and well structured plot unfolds steadily as the police meet the team Becca worked with, the people at her rowing club, the people who might know more about the allegations she had been ready to make public. The characters were well drawn, and the possibilities were intriguing.

Duncan and Gemma used to work together, but as their relationship grew their professional lives separated. But Deborah Crombie has very cleverly continued to draw them both into the same cases. This time around Gemma had come into contact with the man who was the subject of Becca’s allegations. And her own experience left her in no doubt that the allegations were true. She was still on annual leave, but she had a friend and former colleague who might be in a position to help Duncan make his case.

Deborah Crombie follow Duncan’s and Gemma’s lives – not just their work – and a cast of family, friends and colleagues continues to be drawn into the story. That works well, everything fitted together beautifully, and I liked remembering just how people had been drawn in and just how Duncan and Gemma had reached this point in their lives.

I still think you could pick up this book and read happily of you hadn’t read the rest of the series; just enough is explained for everything to make sense. Though I suspect you’d want to go back and find out more from those earlier books after this finish this one.

I had a few small issues with this book. There was a little too much domesticity. There were moments when Duncan’s reactions seemed a little naïve for a man with his experience. But, overall, I liked it very much.

I’d call it a classic mystery, and a fine human story.

It was very readable, I loved reading about the rowing world and life on the river, and I am so impressed at how this series has, and continues to grow.

There was a wonderful point in the story, near the end, when it shifted. What might have been the ending was actually a turning point.

The real ending was nicely dramatic, and though the resolution was mundane it was utterly believable.

I see that book sixteen will be published later in the autumn, so I really must catch up with book fifteen ….

5 responses

  1. I read the first couple of these but they didn’t really pull me in. Perhaps a little too much domesticity? I don’t know. I don’t normally like too much of that in a crime series. However, if you speak well of them then I’m willing to give them a second chance.

  2. This is also one of my favorite series, and I am eagerly awaiting the new book’s release in a couple of weeks. I will probably start reading it on the way home. I can see what you mean about the domesticity, but it’s the characters that keep me reading these – so I’d probably still be reading if the books were just about their families!

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