Review: Garden of Lamentations by Deborah Crombie

Garden of Lamentations by Deborah Crombie is the 17th book in the Duncan Kincaid & Gemma James series.

There’s trouble in paradise at the Kincaid/James household: a dead nanny in their communal Notting Hill walled garden and a growing rift between the married detectives. Garden of Lamentations doesn’t miss a beat as it continues the narrative that began in Deborah Crombie’s 16th book, To Dwell in Darkness. Gemma James is very worried about the barrier between her and her husband Duncan Kincaid.

They’d never criticized each other for the long hours they spent on the job. Both detectives, it was one of the things that had made their relationship work. But this—this wasn’t the job. It was something else, and it worried her. He hadn’t been the same since the day in March when they’d heard Ryan Marsh had died.

Gemma had tried to talk to Kincaid about it, but he’d merely given her a blank stare and changed the subject. They’d always been able to discuss things, first as partners on the job, then as lovers, and, eventually, spouses. She wasn’t sure how to deal with the wall he’d thrown up between them lately.

To top off Gemma’s disquiet and tension—which she tries to dispel with some vigorous gardening—their oldest son Kit is entering into the teenage years when being with his friends is his top priority—he’s no longer as available to watch over the youngsters Toby and Charlotte.

“Oh,” Kit added as he turned back towards the house, “you do remember that Toby has ballet in half an hour, and Charlotte is supposed to go to MacKenzie’s?”

Gemma glanced down at her dirty hands, her jeans and sweaty T-shirt, and said, “Bugger.”

Lest you want to string Kincaid up on the yardarm, he is not only perturbed by his abrupt transfer to a new department, he’s also concerned about his safety and, more importantly, the safety of his family. His closest police colleague—long-time superior Denis Childs, familiar to Crombie’s readers from A Share in Death, the 1st book in her series—finally returns from parts unknown, and Kincaid has it out with him. He has questions for Childs, and he demands answers.

“Those are just the sort of questions you don’t need to be asking, Detective Superintendent.” There was no warmth now in Child’s dark eyes.

“So you arranged my transfer for my own good?” Kincaid’s voice rose. “What about Gemma’s? Were you behind that, too?” Belatedly, he realized that people were staring at him again.

Childs gave him a look he couldn’t quite read. Then he leaned across the booth, so that his gaze met Kincaid’s directly. “Drink up, laddie,” he said softly. “Go home to your wife. Mind your children. Do your job, and keep your nose out of things.”

We’ll never know whether Kincaid might have followed Childs’s advice, for that night Childs is brutally attacked and left fighting for his life. Kincaid has no choice but to investigate what is behind these baffling and dangerous occurrences.

A common theme in many of Crombie’s books is the continuing impact of the past upon the present. To quote myself from an omnibus review of all of Crombie’s books, “Where Memories Lie has a Holocaust plot as an underpinning, another example of Crombie’s talent for bringing the unsolved mysteries of the past blazing into the present.”

This time, it is Denis Childs’s early years in the police force and his relationships with his colleagues at that time—that’s the mystery that Kincaid has to unravel. His estrangement from Gemma persists, however, and she feels very alone in her investigation of the death in her backyard.

It was Duncan who had always been her sounding board, who might be able to help her decide what to do. He would tell her if she was daft for even thinking she knew what had happened. But he wasn’t there. Hadn’t been there for a good while, in fact.

The honest way Deborah Crombie describes Duncan and Gemma’s evolution as a couple is so refreshing. Her readers appreciate the verisimilitude of her world-building and Garden of Lamentations is no exception.

Check out Janet’s review of the 16th Duncan Kincaid & Gemma James novel, To Dwell in Darkness!


  1. Maureen McCoy

    Not a question – just correction : :the death does not take place in the Kincaids shared Nottinghill garden.

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