Blazing through books these last two weeks, I finished another. It was on my to-be-read list because I had read the first, A Share in Death, in the series back in 2019. I was not really impressed with that book, but I wanted to see how things went. I enjoyed the second book in the series, All Shall Be Well, less than the first! This second of Deborah Crombie’s “Kincaid/James” series was released in 1994.
Everyone in this novel is to some extent miserable. I do not think I have read a novel so completely stuffed with unhappy and miserable characters as this one. The whole conceit of the book is that we are never sure if there is a crime or not and if there is a crime, whether that crime is suicide or murder. Someone has died, all right, but it was a lonely, sad death due to cancer. Other utterly miserable people shared these woes: a wimpy failure at life, a cruel bully with no prospects, an overworked divorcee whose ex has skipped out, a old military veteran living alone after disastrous outcomes during his service, a mousy friendless girl, and a number of relatives in mental homes and health care facilities. Literally, everyone in this book is absolutely miserable. And they are nearly vying with each other in their sorrows.
The deceased is slightly interesting because of her background. That becomes wearing and dull, though. There is a cat in the novel – I think it is supposed to be a spot of lightness to the story. Literally, the thing is neglected throughout and though it has a good ending, one cannot help but feel sad for it.
Most of the story is probably spent developing the relationship between the two detectives and their surrounding environment. Their similarities, differences, reactions, etc. Its all very dull, frankly. As with the first book, the Kincaid character is a bit off when it comes to females. I remember 1994 quite well, so please do not try to tell me anything about how it “used to be.” His reactions and thoughts are weird – so it makes me want to raise a suspicious eyebrow at the author about all of this.
He found himself starting absently at two girls ordering food at the counter. One had orange hair cropped almost to her skull, the other a straight fall of fair hair halfway down her back. Spandex minis left their legs bare from the buttocks down, in spite of the chill, damp evening. He supposed vanity provided them sufficient internal warmth – what bothered him was not the likelihood of their catching a chill, but that he’d no idea how long they’d stood there before he noticed them. He must be getting old. – Chapter 13, pg 176
Anyway, the characters are miserable and the storyline is dull. But worse than that, the story is also invasive and uncomfortable. We really dig into the deceased’s affairs – old journals from the 1960s and such – as if we are biographers. The deceased is a very private and reserved person, so doing this sort of rummaging is unpleasant to read about.
The things I did like: we are told about every garden, flower patch, or potting soil bag in the country. Also, we have pint with every meal and its always crisp and refreshing and without struggle. Seamless pints to go along with country-food. I am a bit jealous of the pubs and the gardens.
This is a dull thing and very focused on character introspection and relationships. Its overall story is nearly not a story anyway. A fast read about nothing much. I cannot recommend this to many readers – skip this one. I may read the next novel simply because its on these shelves around here.