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.)
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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 ZvirinCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved