Reviews by L. J. Roberts

DEBORAH CROMBIE – A Finer End. Bantam, hardcover, May 2001; paperback, May 2002.

Genre:   Police procedural. Leading characters:  DI’s Duncan Kincaid & Gemma James; 7th in series. Setting:   England.

First Sentence:   The shadows crept into Jack Montfort’s small office, filling the corners with a comfortable dimness.


   DI’s Duncan Kincaid and Gemma Jones travel to Glastonbury, Scotland after a call from Duncan’s architect cousin, Jack Montfort. It appears that Jack may be a conduit via automatic writing for a medieval monk who wants Jack to find a missing relic.

   Duncan is not the only one who knows about Jack’s unasked for link to the past. Anglican priest and Jack’s lover, Winnie; Nick, a handsome, young bookstore clerk; Faith, the very pregnant, psychically-sensitive runaway; Garnet, the reclusive, new-age potter, and Simon, a Church-scholar with his own secrets, all join with Jack to uncover what is happening. An attempted murder and an actual murder blend the paranormal with police procedure.

    Crombie certainly knows how to capture your attention and draw you straight into the story. From the very first page, Crombie creates a delicious sense of menace and foreboding; a sense of something supernatural at work. This is wonderfully offset of the everyday, very real concerns in Gemma’s and Duncan’s lives and their ever-evolving relationship.

   We are well introduced to the cast of characters, learning who they are and how they interconnect. They were rather fascinating and unusual for a mystery. Certainly, they all had pasts and elements of those pasts they wanted to keep from being revealed. However, it was refreshing that there wasn’t an obvious villain in the group. That made the final resolution even more effective when it was revealed.

   The history was fascinating and well imparted, from the furnishing in one character’s home to information on the Abbey. Crombie’s descriptions are wonderful. She is an author who paints with words and, in this case, sent me straight to the internet looking for more information.

   I particularly loved the role music played in the story including Gemma’s reaction to music and the conveyance of when music touches your soul, as well as learning that the word “enchantment’ is derived from the work chant as it was believe music was the strongest magic.

   On the other side, I did feel there were some dubious bits of information concerned religion, old and new, and pottery. There were also a couple significant coincidences and a few threads left hanging. I enjoyed the paranormal element but might have found it more interesting to have a non-paranormal resolution.

   In summary, we have a story a bit heavy on the paranormal but a captivating plot, lots of viable suspects and excellent plot twists. All in all, it worked for me.

Rating:  Good Plus.

       Previously on this blog:

A Share in Death. (Reviewed by Steve Lewis.)