When Scotland Yard superintendent Duncan Kincaid takes Gemma, Kit, and Toby for a holiday visit to his family in Cheshire, Gemma is soon entranced with Nantwich's pretty buildings and the historic winding canal, and young Kit is instantly smitten with his cousin Lally.
But their visit is marred by family tensions exacerbated by the unraveling of Duncan's sister Juliet's marriage. And tensions are brought to the breaking point on Christmas Eve with Juliet's discovery of a mummified infant's body interred in the wall of an old dairy barn--a tragedy hauntingly echoed by the recent drowning of Peter Llewellyn, a schoolmate of Lally's.
Meanwhile, on her narrowboat, former social worker Annie Lebow is living a life of self-imposed isolation and preparing for a lonely Christmas, made more troubling by her meeting earlier in the day with the Wains, a traditional boating family whose case precipitated Annie's leaving her job.
As the police make their inquiries into the infant's death, Kincaid discovers that life in the lovely market town of his childhood is far from idyllic and that the dreaming reaches of the Shropshire Union Canal hold dark and deadly secrets . . . secrets that may threaten everything and everyone he holds most dear.
The start of Crombie's solid 11th contemporary police procedural featuring Duncan Kincaid of Scotland Yard and Gemma James of the Notting Hill Metropolitan Police (after 2004's In a Dark House) finds the two detectives, also romantic partners, in the English countryside with their children to celebrate Christmas with Kincaid's family. But the trip turns into a busman's holiday when Kincaid's sister, Juliet Newcombe, finds the mummified corpse of an infant in the wall of a building she's renovating. That discovery proves but the first of many mysteries that soon invade the quiet Cheshire community--a woman who once worked as a social worker is murdered, and Juliet finds evidence that her own husband and his partner may be embezzlers. Crombie's combination of the fair-play whodunit with a psychological examination of her characters may remind some readers of P.D. James, but her sleuths lack the depth of James's Commander Dalgleish. (Feb.)
Copyright (c) Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
-- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
There are no customer reviews available at this time. Would you like to write a review?
February 06, 2007
Number of Print Pages*
Adobe DRM EPUB
* Number of eBook pages may differ. Click here for more information.
Excerpt from Water Like a Stone by Deborah Crombie
Gemma James would never have thought that two adults, two children, and two dogs, all crammed into a small car along with a week's worth of luggage and assorted Christmas presents, could produce such a palpable silence.
It was Christmas Eve, and they'd left London as soon as she and her partner, Duncan Kincaid, could get away from their respective offices, his at New Scotland Yard, hers at the Notting Hill Division of the Metropolitan Police. They had both managed a long-overdue week's break from their jobs and were on their way to spend the holiday with Duncan's family in Cheshire, a prospect that Gemma viewed with more than a little trepidation.
In the backseat, her five-year-old son, Toby, had at last fallen asleep, his blond head tilted to one side, his small body sagging against the seat belt with the abandon managed only by the very young. Geordie, Gemma's cocker spaniel, was sprawled half in the boy's lap, snoring slightly.
Next to Toby sat Kit, Duncan's thirteen-year-old, with his little terrier, Tess, curled up beside him. Unlike Toby, Kit was awake and ominously quiet. Their anticipated holiday had begun with a row, and Kit had shown no inclination to put his sense of injury aside.
Gemma sighed involuntarily, and Kincaid glanced at her from the passenger seat.
"Ready for a break?" he asked. "I'd be glad to take over."
As a single fat raindrop splashed against the windscreen and crawled up the glass, Gemma saw that the heavy clouds to the north had sunk down to the horizon and were fast obliterating the last of the daylight. They'd crawled up the M6 past Birmingham in a stop-and-start queue of holiday traffic, and only now were they getting up to a decent speed. "I think there's one more stop before we leave the motorway. We can switch there." Reluctant as she was to stop, Gemma had no desire to navigate her way through the wilds of Cheshire in the dark.
"Nantwich is less than ten miles from the motorway," Kincaid said with a grin, answering her unspoken thought.
"It's still country in between." Gemma made a face. "Cows. Mud. Manure. Bugs."
"No bugs this time of year," he corrected.
"Besides," Gemma continued, undeterred, "your parents don't live in the town. They live on a farm." The word was weighted with horror.
"It's not a working farm," Kincaid said, as if that made all the difference. "Although there is a dairy next door, and sometimes the smell does tend to drift a bit."
His parents owned a bookshop in the market town of Nantwich, but lived in an old farm-house a few miles to the north. Kincaid had grown up there, along with his younger sister, Juliet, and as long as Gemma had known him he'd talked about the place as if it were heaven on earth.
By contrast, having grown up in North London, Gemma never felt really comfortable out of range of lights and people, and she wasn't buying his glowing advertisements for country life. Nor was she thrilled about leaving their home. She had so looked forward to a Christmas unmarred by the calamities that had shadowed last year's holidays, their first in the Notting Hill house. And she felt the children needed the security of a Christmas at home, especially Kit.
Especially Kit. She glanced in the rearview mirror. He hadn't joined in their banter, and his face was still and implacable as he gazed out the window at the rolling Cheshire hills.