Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Deborah Crombie's Scotland Yard books

I'm almost through reading Deborah Crombie's new To Dwell in Darkness and can hardly put it down. But I've been pondering why that series is probably my all-time favorite, why I get so wrapped up in each book, and why I wait, patiently as possible, for the next one. The books are set in England, and I usually prefer American settings; I'm a cozy reader--and author--and these are definitely not cozy. Trying to figure out the attraction has brought that old question to mind--is it plot or character?
Crombie's works are intricately plotted and constructed. I sometimes wonder about her writing method--surely she must outline. At times I thought in this book she had written herself into a blind alley, but she always saves the situation in a thoroughly believable manner (no spoilers here). There are plenty of twists and turns to keep any reader guessing, and that's probably one reason I'm drawn to read so fast. But, no, I don't think it's plot that draws me.
Crombie, a North Texas native, knows England better than most Englanders. Her books include maps, but since I have never been to London, they mean little to me. But she has managed to capture the language and culture in a way that can only be authentic. At one point, in a news conference, Duncan Kincaid tells reporters, "Further information will be forthcoming after the inquest." To himself, he says it's better than saying, "We don't have a bloody clue, mate!" The clothing is equally convincing--cardigans are not what they are in the U.S., nor are umbrellas and lots of other things. I do feel transported to London--and sometimes Scotland, which I love. If I ever go to London I'm sure now I'll want to see the historic Pancras Station and a lot of other places.
But when I come right down to it, it's the characters who keep me involved in the world Crombie creates. Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James are the main characters--both Scotland Yard. But they are joined by several recurring secondary characters so that the reader feels he or she has entered a small community--their children, their associates, characters added in previous novels. But it is Duncan and Gemma who move the stories forward. They began as tentative lovers--by this, the sixteenth book I think though I may be wrong--they are married and raising his son, her son, and an adopted young girl. They have a houseful of children and dogs and the usual confusion that goes along--such as the litter of starving kittens the children bring home in this one. In previous books, they survived such threats as uncertainty about their relationship, a miscarriage, and the death of some close to them. But Duncan and Gemma are also dedicated to their careers which involved unexpected transfers, long hours, and uncertain schedules. Never assigned these days to the same cases, they manage to share information, concerns, and pure speculation about who did what. The reader thus is part of both their Scotland Yard lives and their personal lives, right down to intimacy with the bedroom door properly closed. They are highly trained and absolutely professional; they are also warm, compassionate, caring human beings.
Those are my scattered thoughts, but as I draw close to the end of To Dwell in Darkness, I'm already aware that it will be a long year until the next book. I assume it's already in draft stage.

1 comment:

Andi said...

Judy--I came late to these books, but they have become one of my top five series ever. When I'm reading them, I don't want to leave them to do anything else and I'm sad when they end. I LOVE the maps, because I don't know London and the other sites. It helps me picture the setting in a way just language doesn't. The maps are also so personalized with buildings, pets, etc. illustrated. Just lovely. I wish I had started them early and bought in hc so I could have all of them with the maps. Half the maps are hidden in my current library copy of the book you reviewed and I am starting next.