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Water Like a Stone (Duncan Kincaid/Gemma James Novels) Hardcover – February 6, 2007

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

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 © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Although the presence of Scotland Yard detectives Gemma James and Duncan Kincaid provides the glue that ultimately holds Crombie's latest novel together, the pair seems less involved in solving crime this time than in previous adventures. That doesn't stop this multifaceted mystery from being one of the best in Crombie's long-running series. Christmas with Duncan's family proves just as stressful as Gemma feared, though not in the way she anticipated. Moments after arriving at the elder Kincaid's farmhouse, Duncan is called away by his sister, who has discovered the body of an infant entombed in the wall of a building she is renovating. The sad, horrifying discovery sets the stage for a tightly knit, two-pronged tale, which has a retired social worker at its heart. Duncan's teenage son, newly come to live with his father and Gemma, and Duncan's sister, whose family is disintegrating, are in sharp focus here, as is a canal-boat family whose suffering reminds Duncan and Gemma of recent losses of their own. As in books by Elizabeth George and P. D. James, the intriguing personal relationships and family dynamics drive this well-crafted, impressive mystery-drama. Stephanie Zvirin
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Product Details

  • Series: Duncan Kincaid/Gemma James Novels
  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow; First Edition edition (February 6, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060525274
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060525279
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.3 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (120 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,325,225 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Deborah Crombie grew up near Dallas, Texas, but from a child always had the inexplicable feeling that she belonged in England. After earning a Bachelor's degree in Biology from Austin College in Sherman, Texas, she made her first trip to Britain and felt she'd come home. She later lived in both Chester, England, and Edinburgh, Scotland, where she failed to make as good a use of being cold and poor as JK Rowling.

It was not until almost a decade later that, living once more in Texas and raising her small daughter, she had the idea for her first novel, a mystery set in Yorkshire. She had no credentials other than a desire to write and a severe case of homesickness for Britain. A Share in Death, published in 1993, was short-listed for both Agatha and Macavity awards for Best First Novel and was awarded the Macavity.

Crombie's fifth novel, Dreaming of the Bones, was a New York Times Notable Book in 1997, was named by the Independent Mystery Booksellers as one of the 100 Best Crime Novels of the Century, was an Edgar nominee for Best Novel, and won the Macavity award for Best Novel.

Subsequent novels have been published to critical acclaim and in a dozen languages. Crombie's fourteenth novel featuring Metropolitan Police detectives Superintendent Duncan Kincaid and Inspector Gemma James, No Mark Upon Her, will be published by Harper Collins in February 2012.

The author still lives in Texas but spends several months out of the year in Britain, maintaining a precarious balance between the two, and occasionally confusing her cultural references.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

26 of 27 people found the following review helpful By egreetham on February 10, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I found this, the most recent of Deborah Crombie's Duncan Kincaid/Gemma James novels, more satisfying than the usual series fare. (Even though this novel is a series entry, Ms. Crombie provides enough background information to make a reader new to the series comfortable. It is not an easy task to accomplish this without providing too much or too little back story, and she does this rather well.) Kincaid returns, with his partner Gemma and their children, to his parents' home in Cheshire where he grew up, intending to spend the Christmas holidays and expecting only the disturbances of family tension. When his sister, a builder, finds the mummified body of an infant in an old barn she is rehabbing, everything changes. When the examination of this death becomes involved with another investigation, the complications multiply as Kincaid and his family are more and more directly involved.

Although the complexity of the plot strains believability, most of the characters are compelling and realistic. (In fact, I was surprisingly moved by the fate of one character.) The local police are so completely fleshed out that it wouldn't surprise me if Ms Crombie started a DCI Babcock series. Ms. Crombie seems to know her Cheshire very well--she evokes its canals and towns beautifully, and with apparent affection. Altogher, an enjoyable read.
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29 of 32 people found the following review helpful By K. M. VINE VOICE on February 18, 2007
Format: Hardcover
The previous Duncan Kincaid/ Gemma James installment, IN A DARK HOUSE, masterfully knitted together four plot skeins and kept readers on the edge of their seats. Just released WATER LIKE A STONE, # 11 in the series, reverts to a construction more like that of NOW MAY YOU WEEP, the ninth book which revolved around friends and family rather than around cases assigned to the copper couple. As a result, WATER LIKE A STONE is a less complex procedural -- although it is by no means simple -- as it concentrates on the more personal lives of the family.

This time, the blended Kincaid/James family motors to the Barbury home of Duncan's parents to spend the Christmas holidays. As they arrive on Christmas Eve, Duncan's sister, whose troubled, splintering family lives in neighboring Nantwich discovers an infant's desiccated remains in a barn she and her construction crew are renovating. So, in the midst of family introductions and familiarization, Duncan reconnects with a childhood friend who is now the chief inspector in charge of this investigation and watches a bit enviously from the sidelines as the local police work the case.

Duncan and his son, Kit, also meet a narrowboat owner named Annie, whom they both find intriguing. She, a retired social worker, offers to take them for a boat ride if they return while she is moored nearby. We get to know her fairly intimately, just as we do others in the story. Annie is the "elum" (helm), if you will, of the book: all the branches of the story steer through her.

The younger set plays a significant role in WATER LIKE A STONE. Kit's teenage cousin, Lally, is a wild girl whose destructive behavior worsens due to the turmoil between her parents. Kit's desire to help her lands him in mortal peril at the tale's climax.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By MysteryPoodle VINE VOICE on February 19, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Crombie just keeps getting better and better. In this outing, Scotland Yard Superintendant Duncan Kincaid and his son Kit, and Duncan's partner, Gemma James of the Notting Metropolitan Police and her son, Toby, bundle up the family's two dogs and head to Cheshire and Kincaid's boyhood home for the Christmas Holiday with his family. Once there, the group is only just warmly welcomed by Kincaid's parents when his sister, Juliet, calls to say she thinks she may have found a body in an old barn that she is renovating...

Crombie uses a third person point of view better than anyone, allowing you to see inside the heads of the participants and understand why they're doing what they are doing in a way that makes perfect sense... only you know that if each knew what the others did, they'd realize much sooner what evil is among them. Even the childrens' and teenagers' actions are portrayed with empathy -- yes, sometimes, they behave like perfect idiots, but Crombie helps you remember what it was like to be so unsure but so desperately needful of seeming to know everything.

The book paints a fascinating picture of the narrow boats on the English canals, and I realized then how many of her books had managed to bring to life a part of the English countryside that isn't usually talked about in guide books or glossy brochures.

Crombie has a rare gift for blending dialoge, action and scenery so seamlessly that you feel you were there. Can't wait for the next one!
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By K. MacAlister on February 12, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I had to ration my reading to keep from finishing this book too quickly, since I know it will be at least a year till the next one arrives. Ms. Crombie has the unique ability to balance plot and characterization so that they support each other and keep the reader totally involved. The plot is complex, but so are the characters, and they combine to make it difficult to put the book down. I wish I could give this 5+ stars--and hop a plane for Cheshire to cruise the canals in a narrowboat!
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