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The Sound of Broken Glass: A Novel (Duncan Kincaid/Gemma James Novels) Hardcover – Deckle Edge, February 19, 2013

4.4 out of 5 stars 370 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Author One-on-One: Deborah Crombie and Elizabeth George

Deborah   CrombieElizabeth George

Elizabeth George is the bestselling author of sixteen suspense novels featuring Scotland Yard Inspector Lynley, including her latest, Believing the Lie.

Elizabeth George: In many ways, you and I are "working the same patch", so I'm curious about your methods. How did you balance internet research with on-site research for The Sound of Broken Glass?

Deborah Crombie: I try to get over to the UK (usually London) once or twice during the writing of every book. I search out obscure books on the setting and subject of the novel, and I also interview people who do what my characters do. For The Sound of Broken Glass I talked to working musicians, from street buskers to singers to record producers. But I do find that the internet is a good source for the small details that fill in the cracks and make everything just that much more vivid and interesting.

EG: For me, place becomes an element in my plot design. How did Crystal Palace influence your writing of the novel?

DC: A dear friend of mine moved to Crystal Palace a few years ago, and has been feeding me fascinating nuggets of Crystal Palace lore ever since. I found it really interesting that three distinct areas come together there, and yet its geographical isolation (the highest point in South London) sets it apart, giving it almost the feel of a village. And then there was the history of the Crystal Palace itself, and the atmosphere that still lingers even though the palace is gone. You could say that in a way, place becomes a character in the novel.

EG: We appear to have made a similar decision to allow our continuing characters to have lives that change and develop from one novel to the next , but you've done something additional that I find fascinating: using characters who've been in earlier books as part of the crime plot.

DC: Often even my minor characters introduce themselves to me towing a full backstory. It may not have anything to do with the book where they first appear, but when the time is right, I like to get back to them and tell their full stories. Continuing characters like Erica Rosenthal and Hazel Cavendish were part of Duncan and Gemma’s lives long before they became the center of their own books. Andy Monahan, the guitarist who is the primary character in Broken Glass, had very minor walk-on appearances in several previous books, and the more I saw of him the more I knew he had a story I wanted to tell. I was delighted to have the opportunity to bring him back for The Sound of Broken Glass.

EG: I take my novel through an almost Byzantine process with a number of intricate stages. Do you follow any particular process yourself?

DC: Byzantine is the word! I do research, take photos, walk the area for weeks on end, study maps (I love maps) read stacks of books, and do many first- hand interviews as I begin to shape my plot. Then I like to brainstorm with my long-time critique partners—who include people from law enforcement, medicine, and other writers— before I ever begin outlining the plot and journaling my ideas. I then do character histories, block out the predominant storylines (usually six to eight per novel) then work the events in the storylines into a chronological scene-by-scene outline. This preliminary work usually takes more time than the actual writing of the book. The first part is very left-brained, the actual writing seems to be more right-brained—something you and I have chatted about. I love the fact that we use similar methods, yet end up with wonderfully different books.

From Booklist

While husband Duncan Kincaid remains at home to help foster-child Charlotte adjust, Gemma James works a gruesome murder in Crystal Palace, an area of London named after a magnificent glass exhibition hall that was destroyed in the 1930s. The discovery of a dead barrister in a seedy hotel room leads Gemma and colleague Detective Sergeant Melody Talbot to a talented young guitarist who grew up in the neighborhood. Andy Monahan doesn’t seem like a killer, but it’s clear to Gemma that he’s keeping something back. When a second barrister is killed in a similarly gruesome fashion, Andy’s link to both victims and to Crystal Palace puts him dead center in the investigation. The question, of course, is, “Will Andy be next?” More predictable than usual and not the best choice to introduce readers to the series, this will nevertheless please Crombie’s many fans. They will already be invested in James-Kincaid family dynamics and know toddler Charlotte’s tragic story, which began in Necessary as Blood (2006) and is referenced without much explanation here. --Stephanie Zvirin

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Product Details

  • Series: Duncan Kincaid/Gemma James Novels (Book 15)
  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow; First Edition edition (February 19, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061990639
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061990632
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (370 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #648,951 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Sharon Isch TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on December 26, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
First a bit of back story for those of you who aren't series regulars: This is the 15th novel in a series starring Scotland Yard detectives Duncan Kinkaid and Gemma James by the American novelist Deborah Crombie. The Duncan & Gemma story began when he became her superior on the force, then came attraction, then, a secret love affair, then, eventually, Duncan, Gemma and her little boy Toby moved in together, then Duncan's son Kit's mother died and he joined the household, dogs got added, then came a case they were working on that left a wee child named Charlotte orphaned and homeless; after she joined their household, the two detectives found themselves having to take alternate leaves to stay home and help her adapt to a new life. Around that same time, Duncan and Gemma got married and Gemma got transferred to the Yard's South London team where she's now about to take on her first case as a DCI (Detective Chief Inspector).

This one starts out as a case of a barrister found dead in a bed in a downmarket hotel--tied up, face-down and strangled. Another virtually identical murder occurs soon after. The victims had no known connections to each other, but each had had connections to the Crystal Palace neighborhood at one time or another. So, too, did the guitarist who'd been playing with his band at the pub where the first victim was last seen.

By coincidence, it turns out that Duncan, currently the stay-at-home dad, knows some of the key players in this case, and gets involved...secretly, because Scotland Yard does not allow married couples to work together. (I wonder how Crombie's going to deal with that as the series goes on--perhaps the answer's in whatever comes after that surprising last sentence on the last page.
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If you've ever contemplated writing a thriller, or even just a run-of-the-mill crime novel, you may have stopped in your tracks when you came to the point of coming up with a plot. It ain't easy (at least for those of us who aren't named James Patterson). Readers tend to demand stories that keep them puzzled right up to the end, surprise or shock them in the closing pages, and then leave them with a satisfied feeling that everything makes sense after all. All this requires that lots of loose ends need to be tied up tightly, shining a favorable light on the intrepid investigator who solves the case or the heroic action figure who forestalls disaster (usually something tantamount to destroying the planet we live on).

Sometimes coincidence plays a part in making all this work. And sometimes it plays much too big a part.

In her police procedurals set in England, Deborah Crombie has generally done an unusually good job of writing convincing and engaging mystery novels -- despite the fact that she's a native Texan and lives in a Texas town. On most of my previous excursions into the lives of Crombie's protagonists, Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James, I've enjoyed myself immensely. However, The Sound of Broken Glass is a disappointment.

This time, the culprit is coincidence.

In Broken Glass, Kincaid and James are married and raising three children (one of hers, one of his, and one adopted), and in ways that are clearly less than satisfying or convenient for them, their lives now revolve around the kids. Kincaid, a Detective Superintendant, is playing house-husband while James, promoted to Detective Inspector, chases murderers through the streets of London.
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Gemma James' first case as DCI involves a barrister found in a basement room of a seedy hotel. Eventually, the investigation dovetails with the story of a young boy, all but abandoned by his alcoholic mother and bullied by his peers. Woven throughout is the history of the Crystal Palace area of South London and the music scene nearby.

After complaining that the previous entry in this series, No Mark Upon Her, was overstuffed with tangents and had way too much Charlotte, I have to say I thought the balance was so much better in this one. The pace was brisk - shifts between the backstory, the investigation, the domestic subplots and secondary characters were smooth and kept the story rocketing along. I don't think it's a place to start with the series - several people involved in the case are characters we've met previously, and why would a newcomer to the series care whether Doug ever gets his ceiling painted or about childcare arrangements? Series fans, however, won't find much to quibble with in this visit with the James/Kincaid ensemble. And Crombie's planted a teaser to make us anxious for the next book.
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The Sound of Broken Glass was my first exposure to author Deborah Crombie, but it will not be my last. She is a talented author who really knows how to develop a plot and interesting characters while keeping the reader engaged and entertained.

She keeps the reader mesmerized and guessing as she plants clues and weaves back and forth in time at a pace that is on the mark for this suspense filled whodunit set in London.

She paints a vivid tale that impacts the readers' senses. I could almost feel the February elements--moist fog, splashing rain, shivering snow and slippery ice--and uncomforting settings like being overdressed in an overheated space or rancid crime scene.

Andy Monahan was the victim of a pathetic childhood as a poor latch keyed kid and caretaker for his alcoholic mother until her death while being stalked and bullied by a set of sociopathic high society brats, Shaun Francis and Joe Peterson.

When the widowed, kind and beautiful school teacher, Nadine Drake becomes his friend and neighbor, Andy finally sees a ray of hope in his pitiful existence. She not only gave him adult encouragement, comfort and food, but also gave her deceased husband, Marshall's prized and expensive red Fender Stratocaster guitar to Andy and boosted his confidence by reveling in his music. That friendship was shattered too after Nadine was unjustly accused of a crime that ruined her reputation, caused her to be fired from her job and resulted in her moving and abruptly disappearing from Andy's life.
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