93 of 96 people found the following review helpful
If you are a fan of smart English Scotland Yard procedurals, you should enjoy this latest by Deborah Crombie which explores the competitive world of rowing. The moody, murky Thames River creates the book's atmosphere and is the backdrop for the mysterious death of an Olympic-caliber rower who was practicing to compete for England in the upcoming Olympics. Complicating this? She was also a senior female Met officer, West London, Major Crimes.
The case demands finesse to protect the reputation of the Met, and Scotland Yard's Duncan Kincaid is called on holiday by his boss to intervene and investigate the possibility of a suspicious death. Kincaid and his partner, Cullen, soon discern that the victim's life appears "as if she had something to hide." Old rivalries, hushed-up crimes and possible crooked cops are encountered as they sort through the different strands of her life trying to uncover motive and means for murder by those who knew her. There are ample suspects among police colleagues, Olympic aspirants, old friends, and even a coach, ex-husband and lover among others.
Devotees of Crombie will find this an especially taut mystery with amped-up tension. More crimes are attempted and the pace accelerates. Plot lines intertwine to create a sophisticated and complex mystery which has a riveting and ultimately satisfying conclusion. I had several suspects in mind as the villain. As customary with Crombie, secondary characters aren't flat, and are as believable as Kincaid and his wife Gemma, who also works for the Met and assists Kincaid in this investigation. The search and rescue dogs and their owners add to the dramatic tension and warmth of the story.
You sense while reading this book that Crombie enjoys writing and experimenting with her craft. She has a natural, fluid prose with occasional cul-de-sacs of poetic description which elevate her mysteries above the average mystery fare. She takes care constructing the story and writing it as the quality of writing is even throughout the book. The plot is well-conceived and paced. Although Crombie is American, she has lived in England and Scotland and may be as American writer Henry James described himself 'more English than the English'. There's plenty of tea-pouring, being gobsmacked, finding "no joy", dogsbodies and Governor's for Anglophiles.
Loyal readers of hers will enjoy the advancement of Duncan Kincaid's and Gemma James' family's progress and familiar characters (Hazel, Wes etc.) from prior books who make cameo appearances. I particularly enjoyed DI Singla's humorous description of what is usually in his wife's handbag as a character study--it's these human interest asides that color Crombie's books, attracting loyal readers. If you are new to Crombie, this book can be a stand alone--it will probably tempt you to sample her first in the series A Share in Death (Duncan Kincaid/Gemma James Novels) and read through the entire series.
Every book of Crombie's has a unique flavor--she seems to continually challenge herself to progress as a writer and create something fresh. This book successfully accomplishes that and should delight her reading admirers.
27 of 27 people found the following review helpful
on August 4, 2011
I was about to start rereading all 13 Duncan Kincaid/Gemma James novels in preparation for the 14th, "No Mark Upon Her". Alas, I got this one from the UK before I could get "restarted". I could not ignore it, and I dug unto it with gusto. I finished it in two days - all 468 pages (plus the two for acknowledgments).
The plot is topnotch, not predictable at all, and it starts getting faster an faster so that we cannot stop reading. It makes us feel as if we are in one of those shells, gliding along the Thames, and the current keeps taking us downstream forcefully.
The backdrop is the river, its bridges, its people. The core is really Duncan, Gemma, and Charlotte. Kit and Toby are their usual lovely selves. But then there's Charlotte, and she is special. She draws everyone to her and her favorite character, Alice (in Wonderland).
Surrounding a wedding, a birthday, Halloween, are real people, not puppets. We recall the ones from way back, but the "newcomers" are all very original and we remember them clearly.
And we also learn about the top guys in the Yard, and how they go to great lengths to protect each other, much to Kincaid's anger - but there is nothing he can do about it. At least, he was able to solve the mystery, even though he feels he has not done his best. He is left with some reconciliation, a two month leave, and he will now be in charge of the household.
Will Gemma be as successful as Duncan in the next novel? I, for one, am eagerly awaiting it. And now, I will go back and reread all 14 Duncan Kincaid/Gemma James novels!
94 of 108 people found the following review helpful
Of W. C. Fields, Leo Rosten once famously said: "Any man who hates dogs and children can't be all bad." Well, I love dogs and enjoy kids (at least most of the time), but Deborah Crombie is making her books so much about kids, dogs, and home life in general that it's making me feel increasingly like Fields.
When protagonists Gemma James and Duncan Kincaid stopped being detective partners a few titles ago, I suppose Crombie figured she needed to increase her quotient of the domestic setting, since that's a scene the two still share, particularly now that they are married. But I have minimal interest in Duncan's son, Kit, and Gemma's son, Toby, and now that they've taken in a young girl, Charlotte, it's pushed me to the limits of my tolerance.
When I pick up a book of crime fiction, the last thing I want to read about is kids squabbling in a car, parents negotiating child care arrangements, and a birthday party for a three-year-old. But there's a whole lot of that kind of thing in this book which, for me, comes close to ruining a good mystery story.
Fortunately, when Crombie does focus on the criminal investigation, it's a tight, twisty, and often tense plot. The book begins with a missing rower, Rebecca Meredith, who is thinking about making a try for the Olympics. She is also a Detective Chief Inspector with London's Metropolitan police. When she is found dead after being reported missing the day after she went rowing on the river, the investigation finds there is a dark side to the world of competitive rowing, and an even darker aspect to the police world and its internal politics.
My three-star review is a compromise, reflecting my positive feelings about the plot, on the one hand, and my dislike of so much domestic detail on the other. It isn't that I don't want to know about Gemma and Duncan as people; I just don't want to spend my time reading about the minutiae of their kids' lives. But if you're a fan of this series and you can't get enough of Gemma and Duncan's home life with the kids, this will be a four- or five-star book for you.
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
The fourteenth in the Gemma Jones/Duncan Kincaid modern British police procedural series, this one starts off with a wedding marred by racism. The crime is set in the posh rowing world of Henley, and involves a lot of upper-crust British nobs of the Oxbridge set, plus some people from lesser backgrounds they've accepted into their number. I found the new characters extremely well-drawn, distinctive, and specific and I wish that some of them could continue in successive books in the series. The mystery is well-hidden; with several red herrings; I didn't know who did it until almost the end of the book, which is gratifying.
This is definitely not the place to start this series, as Gemma and
Duncan's friends, colleagues, and the children in their household
would be mystifying to the newcomer. Go back to "A Share in Death", and enjoy the series as it develops.
While I'm not sure this is the absolutely the best book in the series, (perhaps "Necessary as Blood"?) it's definitely an excellent addition that had me fully engaged and wishing I could sit and read it all the way through in one sitting.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
First Sentence: A glance at the sky made her swear aloud.
Police Det. Chief Inspector Rebecca Meredith, also an Olympic rowing contender, has gone missing. When a K9 team locates her body, it is clear her rowing accident was no accident. Pressure in brought to bear on Det. Super. Duncan Kincaid to solve the case quickly and quietly but things are not as simple as they appear.
On a personal level, one thing I enjoyed about this particular book is the setting; it's one of the few areas of England I've been fortunate enough to visit and come to know. I've always appreciated Ms. Crombie's vivid descriptions, but this was especially fun for me.
Although I am glad to move away from the angst-driven detective to those who have families and personal lives, there can be way too much of a good thing. The case and the mystery were very nearly drowned in details of Duncan Kincaid and his wife Gemma's life. While that adds veracity to the characters and story, I found it overwhelming and distracting to the point where I was close to not finishing the book.
What saved it, for me, is that Ms. Crombie does write a very good police procedural. There is good tension and some very well-done plot twists. Sadly, I correctly identified the killer almost from the first appearance in the story.
Ms. Crombie is a wonderful writer. Unfortunately, "No Mark Upon Her" was, for me, far from her best book. I'd prefer to see her leave the kids and the dogs more in the background and focus on her fine ability to write a really good mystery.
NO MARK UPON HER (Pol Proc-Det. Super. Duncan Kincaid-England-Contemporary) - Okay
Crombie, Deborah - 14th in series
Wm. Morrow, 2012
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on August 7, 2011
From the first evening outing on the Thames to the final confrontation with the killer, No Mark Upon Her breathes life into the setting and characters that drive Crombie's tense new Kincaid/James mystery. When Duncan Kincaid leads an investigation into the death of an Olympic rowing hopeful, Crombie introduces us to the world of competitive rowing, canine search and rescue, and internal politics at the Metropolitan Police. Her meticulous research and elegant prose make the town of Henley, the venerable Leander Club, and the river itself spring to life, and her characters continue to be complex and memorable, be they old friends or new faces, human or canine. She weaves a satisfying story that not only solves the case at hand, but leaves Duncan, and the reader, questions to ponder in books to come.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Like any long-running series, Deborah Crombie's Duncan Kinkaid/Gemma James books have had their ups and downs, but one consistent throughout has been the vibrant and original characters. Even where the plot is improbable, the families, friends, and colleagues who populate these pages are beautifully drawn and the dialogue is always real and familiar.
In this most recent outing, there is no problem with improbable plot. In fact, there is no problem at all. This is one of the best, most heart-stopping books that Crombie has written in recent years. I sussed one bad character almost immediately, but that was mostly a lucky guess. Another was more shocking and unexpected.
This book is set in the rarified air of elite British rowing clubs where the British gold medal in the Sydney Olympics is still celebrated as though it was yesterday. And an Olympic rowing hopeful, who is also a Detective Chief Inspector, is missing after a solitary evening practice. So out come the search-and-rescue teams and their remarkable dogs, all of whom are woven throughout the book.
As a result, I now know more than I ever expected about search-and-rescue teams, as well as rowing, with much more appreciation for the rigors involved in both. And now the phrase "Oxford Blues" makes much more sense.
Combine this with the magic of Charlotte, the foster daughter of Kinkaid and James, and her increasing hold on her bemused family. Just when the action is so intense you think you can't stand it, you get the relief of family - at least, until the last few chapters, which power through like a freight train.
I thoroughly recommend this book, but if you're new to Deborah Crombie, you should treat yourself to the whole series, starting with "A Share in Death". It has been a good journey.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
"No Mark Upon Her" is the 14th book in a series of police procedurals set in London. Detectives Gemma James and her new husband, Duncan Kincaid, have been partners for a long time, then lovers, and in later books in the series, they become a blended family. As "No Mark" opens, James and Kincaid have just married. They are also adjusting to their adoption of a three-year-old girl Charlotte, whose parents' deaths were the subject of the previous book in the series. In order to ease Charlotte's transition into their family, Gemma and Duncan plan on taking family leave. Gemma has just finished hers, while Duncan is set to begin his leave in a few days. Of course, murder doesn't care about schedules or child care dilemmas, and as the book begins, a K-9 squad has discovered the body of a missing woman.
The woman was a rower, once considered an Olympic contender, and also a member of the London Metropolitan Police. Duncan is called in on the investigation, and discovers that the victim was a complex woman with a lot of people who might have reasons for wanting her dead, including an ex-husband, a lover who suffers from PTSD, and a work colleague who date-raped her. After someone tries to kill a member of the K-09 team who helped find the body, the investigation gets even more tense and complex, and Gemma gets sucked into the case, too.
For whatever reason, this particular book didn't grip me as much as some of the other books in the series. I thought the emphasis on Kincaid's and James's family life was a bit distracting and diluted some of the tension in the book. With so many pages devoted to babysitting dilemmas and birthday parties and who is going to make what for dinner, the mystery seemed to take second place to the domestic arrangements of the main characters, which is a shame. While the mystery itself was good, I think there may have been too many characters, or too many plot lines tied up together as the book felt disjointed to me. All in all, though, this isn't a bad book; just not the best in the series.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
This is a great story if you are into sculling (rowing, crewing) and understand what the Thames at Henley means to people of that sport. If not you'll get an education into something you probably could do without. This type of story if very much a class study of how things are in England even after all the years of changes since the end of WW 2. Not only who you are, but where you went to school, and especially what you did while you were there will set you on a path that leads to a comfortable and privileged life.
A singles sculler disappears one night while practicing. When people from her life go looking for her, they finally find her shell (boat) and then they find her drowned body. Now if you've ever seen a scull shell, it looks a lot like a balance beam with oars. They're very delicate and amazingly unstable for most people, but for a good rower they're are like a bicycle and just as comfortable. That a world class rower would have her boat upset and then drown is unheard of. To top it all off, the dead woman was a Police Detective Inspector.
The real interest in this novel is Crombie's way of dealing with the endemic sexism that exists among the senior officers of the Metropolitan Police Force (the London Police Force) and the way in which the men from the 'old boys club' will rally around one of their own even when they know that he may have committed serial rape and murder. It's definitely who you know and where you went to school, that protects you in life.
I personally found all of the time spent on the explanations of what constitutes a 'world class' rower and their machines to be just TMI that I could have done without. It isn't that I didn't find it interesting, but you can only read the same thing three times before it gets annoying. Finally, the end of the book just happened too easily and the rap-up of the bad guys was just a little too moralistic. Life doesn't treat arrogance and pomposity the way it's presented in this book; manys the time the a-holes get away with only a slap on the wrist, a wink and a nod.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on August 11, 2011
I just finished Deborah Crombie's Book # 14 in the Gemma/Duncan series, No Mark Upon Her.
Gemma and Duncan's personal and professional lives have moved on in a very positive
way since end of book #13. No Mark Upon Her, finds them working together again in
a different manor and their home lives have become more joyous and interesting for them.
This book takes place surrounding a rowing club on the Thames. I have never been
into rowing, and found it very easy to follow along as Deborah gives you the details you
need to follow what is going on without overwhelming you with details.
As book series continue on, I sometimes find that they are boring or the same thing
over and over; this is NOT the case with Deborah's series, each book brings new setting,
new characters with them.
Each book has a unique setting and circumstances. You will love how Deb mesh's her
main characters personal lives with their professional lives. The way she writes about
her characters, pulls you in to the book and makes you feel you are there with them, not
a common experience for me, have had that happen with only a few authors and I love it.
Her books take place in London and surrounding areas, I've never been to England but have
been reading British Mysteries since I was about 7 when I got my first Agatha Christie book.
I should have been born in England, I love everything about it from what I read in mystery
books and see in travel shows.
Since I'm stuck in the states, I am always looking for new
authors who write British Mysteries.
Deb was recommended to me last year and I found all 13 books and read them in order in a week.
When I heard books #14 would be coming out this year, I watched and as soon as it was ready
for pre-order, I put my order in. I actually received it in the mail (from England)
a few days before it was due on shelves. The USA edition is due out in February if I'm
I am so thankful a friend recommended the books and I enjoy conversing with Deb on line,
what a lovely, fun person she is !
The only problem with finishing No Mark Upon Her, is waiting for book # 15 !
Keep writing Deb - love the series