Monday, July 7, 2014

Series Spotlight: Deborah Crombie's Duncan Kincaid/ Gemma James Series

Deborah Crombie on tour for her novel
No Mark Upon Her, appearing at the Velma Teague
Library, via Lesa's Book Critiques
If you've read this blog for a while or clicked around for a few minutes, it will come as no surprise to learn that I love mystery series. Really, I love almost any kind of mystery, set almost anywhere -- hard-boiled female private detectives (think V.I. Warshawski or Kinsey Millhone), police procedurals (Harry Bosch), medical/ forensic titles (Kay Scarpetta, Tempe Brennan). I also love more literary mysteries, like Tana French's books or Sara J. Henry's novels. And then there are funny, semi-mysterious books like the Stephanie Plum series or the Sookie Stackhouse books. I know, I know -- you get it. I love them all.

Sometimes amidst all the mayhem, you  hanker for something a little more... homey. Inviting. And therein lies the need for a good cozy mystery. Books that involve a mystery, perhaps even a murder, but that give you a warm, fuzzy feeling at the end of the day. Although I've enjoyed many cozy mystery series, Deborah Crombie's Kincaid/James series is one of the best. It has been my go-to series this summer, in between books that hit hard on the emotional scale. While the Kincaid/James books aren't entirely lacking in difficult moments, they always leave you with a feeling that the world isn't such a bad place after all.

First of all, the series is set in Great Britain. I don't know about you, but for me, that marks it up immediately. I love a good British mystery. Or a good British novel. Or movie. Or TV show. (Downton Abbey? Um, yes.) Crombie does an excellent job of describing the series's setting. Notting Hill, other familiar-to-most-readers neighborhoods, even a trip to Scotland every now and again.

The main characters are also exceptionally likable -- not that they have to be in every book you read, but I'd say in a good cozy mystery it might be a necessity. Duncan and Gemma are far from perfect, but as you read the series they really grow on you. They begin as colleagues in the Scotland Yard, Duncan a superintendent and Gemma, a sergeant. As their working lives collide, so do their personal lives. Crombie weaves the two characters' lives together, both their past and present, a little at a time as the series progresses. Trust me when I say things get complicated, both in good and bad ways.

The actual mysteries the duo solves are also great stories in and of themselves. The plot line usually involves someone from either Duncan or Gemma's past (i.e., an ex-wife, an old friend), simultaneously furthering both the main characters' arc and relating an excellent story. I began the series years ago, then abandoned it for a time, as readers do. This summer I simply chose a book I thought I hadn't read, and began again from there. So far I've read And Justice There Is None and Now May You Weep, books 8 and 9 in the series. I'm pleased that Crombie has written 14 books in the series,  meaning I have more to enjoy!

For more information about Deborah Crombie, click over to her website.
For a list of the Kincaid/James series books in order, click here (lacking the newest book, No Mark Upon Her).
To read more about individual titles in the series, visit Crombie's books page.

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