Connor Swann, son-in-law of famous conductor Sir Gerald and renowned soprano Dame Caroline is found dead in Thames. The circumstances are ambiguous and it is not sure whether it was suicide, accident or murder. Duncan and Gemma are sent to investigate the case. Soon they realise that the perfect world of the Ashertons is not really as perfect as it looks on the surface.
Ashertons are a peculiar family. The husband and wife, Sir Gerald and Dame Caroline are renowned in their fields and their daughter Julia is an upcoming artist. But the relationships in the family are twisted though they remain unnoticed to outsiders. The death of their son, Matthew, twenty years ago in a similar manner as Connor’s has cast its invisible shadow on the family. Julia has left Connor and is now leaving with her parents for a year. But Connor refuses to divorce her, lives in Julia’s flat and visits her parents every week. Julia seems totally unmoved by his death but her parents seem more rattled and even genuinely caring for him.
I just love this series and it is getting better with every new book. The third instalment is definitely better than previous books. For one, the mystery is good. There were so few suspects that I thought I will figure it out soon but the very fact that there seemed an utter lack of motive kept me guessing almost till the end. But the main reason I liked this book for is characters. Crombie has given each character in the story its inimitable soul. Though Connor Swann is dead and we don’t get to meet him, what we learn about him through others is surprising and shows him in a different light than his Casanova image. And then there is that unseen tension between Duncan and Gemma. Duncan is irresistibly drawn towards Julia, Connor’s widow and Gemma empathises with Tommy, Asherton’s family friend creating friction and embarrassment between them that neither can explain fully.
Well, I think the series is quite near to Agatha Christie in its bearing and I could see the influence clearly. Crombie has even partially acknowledged it by making Gemma and Tommy meet at Brown’s Hotel that was model for Christie’s ‘At Bertram’s Hotel’ and making apt observations about the Golden Age of crime novels in Britain. Though giving the same laid back and cosy feel for most of the part, it differs from old fashioned comfy mysteries in its central characters which are more human and susceptible to emotions, even darker ones.
There was kind of implicit sexual attraction between Duncan and Gemma previously and the events of the book draw them together. But the end of the story is bitter-sweet with both reacting differently to their relationship and I am interested in knowing what happened next. There are eleven more books to go as I write this but it is a prospect I am happily looking forward to.
Thank you for reading. I appreciate your time.
The book is available cheapest in India at –
My other Duncan Kincaid/Gemma James series reviews –