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by Deborah Crombie
William Morrow, February 2012
384 pages
ISBN: 0061990612

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Rebecca "Becca" Meredith is a hard-charging detective chief inspector who is also an accomplished rower. Although she is older than is optimal, she has begun rigorous training to qualify for the Olympics. When she doesn't return from an evening practice, her ex-husband, Freddie Atterton, reports her missing. Shortly thereafter, her boat is found capsized with evidence of foul play. A local search-and-rescue team using specially trained dogs is deployed and eventually finds Becca's body. One of the team members, Kieran Connolly, has a strong reaction to the discovery; as it turns out, he had a personal connection to Becca.

Scotland Yard superintendent Duncan Kincaid is called upon to conduct the investigation. Normally, someone of his rank would not be asked to take the lead in such a case; however, given Becca's high standing within the police, a senior officer needs to take charge to ensure all the bases are covered. Becca was a driven woman who didn't suffer fools gladly. There are several people who might have had reason to kill her, including her ex-husband, her rowing coach, a coworker whom she threatened and a strange man seen near the river when Becca drowned. When one of the rescue team's members is threatened, the scope of the investigation broadens. Kincaid's wife, who is a detective inspector, ultimately uncovers some key evidence that leads to the revelation of the killer.

As always, Crombie does a fine job with the procedural aspects of the investigation with a complex plot providing many fascinating byways. There's a lot of information about competitive rowing that adds interest. The characterization is intriguing, most especially the portrayal of Connolly, an ex soldier with severe vertigo issues and the presumed killer, a high ranking police officer named Angus Craig. However, I felt that Kincaid was far too hasty in jumping to conclusions about who the killer might be. The narrative was written in such a way that his view was supported without leaving much room for any other suspect; it just seemed so obvious that Craig was at fault. There was a lot of unwarranted speculation about his motivation and what he allegedly did, which I found heavy handed.

In a departure from the typical procedural, Crombie spends quite a bit of time (perhaps a bit too much) developing the personal lives of the protagonists and shows the difficulties of family life in a dual-career household. Duncan's 14-year-old son, Kim, and Gemma's 6-year-old son, Toby, have been joined by a 4-year-old foster child, Charlotte, who is in the process of joining the family. In addition to the fact that she is black, she has intimacy issues. At the moment, Gemma's leave is about to end and she is returning to work. Meanwhile, Duncan has paternity leave planned in order to continue to care for Charlotte. It's interesting to imagine what life will be like with Kincaid in charge of the home front!

I missed having Kincaid and James work closely together on the case. The book concludes with Gemma pursuing an entirely new direction, and that makes me wonder about the future of their professional partnership and whether they will be engaging in more solo efforts.

Formerly a training development manager for a large company, Maddy is now retired and continues to enable the addiction of crime fiction fans as owner of the online discussion group, 4 Mystery Addicts(4MA), while avidly reading in every possible free moment herself.

Reviewed by Maddy Van Hertbruggen, March 2012

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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