Keeping a long running series fresh for almost two dozen books is a challenge for any author, but works like A Killing of Innocents—the nineteenth Duncan Kincaid/Gemma James mystery—by Deborah Crombie make it look easy. The release of this new entry in this beloved series was delayed by the global pandemic, but both Crombie’s loyal fans and those who are just discovering the series will be more than satisfied by the final result.
A Killing of Innocents begins with Duncan Kincaid and his sergeant Doug Cullen grabbing a pint at a local pub. When they are called to the scene of what appears to be a random stabbing, they realize it was the same woman they had seen leaving the pub shortly before. Was this just bad timing or was Sasha Johnson targeted?
The investigation leads Kincaid and his team to Sasha’s workplace, a nearby hospital, where workplace friction seems unusually high. Meanwhile, Sasha’s roommate—a sculptor—can’t imagine anyone wanting to hurt her friend. When evidence turns up that points in the direction of a popular nightclub, Duncan recruits his wife to go undercover with another of his officers, Jasmine Sidana. Readers know the Kincaid/James duo is unbeatable, so once they are both on the case, this killer has no chance of escape.
Unfortunately, a second death throws a curveball into their investigation—leading everyone involved to draw new conclusions. It’s much too coincidental to have two random stabbings where the victims know each other.
What Deborah Crombie does about as well as anyone in the crime fiction community is juggle multiple points of view without ever losing the reader’s interest. Because this is such a long running series, there are many characters to which readers feel loyalty and allowing them each to have their moment in the spotlight without distracting from the central mystery is no easy feat. And yet, that is exactly what Deborah Crombie achieves in A Killing of Innocents.
Another success here is Crombie’s ability to disprove that old adage that once an author introduces children into the mix, the police work becomes unrealistic. We have all heard people question: who would put themselves at risk like that when they have family at home, and yet, the fact remains that this happens in real life every day in every city around the world. Deborah Crombie proves that it can work on the written page as well. In many ways, it is comforting to witness how Gemma and Duncan juggle the demands of parenthood with a desire to excel in their careers. Sure, it’s not easy, but it can be done and these two prove it—and the ending of this novel only alludes to further complications.
Reading a Deborah Crombie novel is like slipping into a familiar world, visiting with old friends. Readers are invested in these characters—both the leads and the supporting cast—in a way that elevates them off the written page. So much of this is a direct result of their relatability. Each of the characters has a life beyond their jobs, and in A Killing of Innocents, Deborah Crombie continues to complicate things for some long-time favorites. Of course, fans are willing to follow along as they conduct their well-constructed investigations, but when their lives are in danger, the reader is glued to the page hoping that things will turn out for the best.
Let’s hope that it’s not quite so long until our next visit with this delightful cadre of characters. That book will be the twentieth in the series, so it sure to be an occasion to celebrate. For now, dive into Deborah Crombie’s A Killing of Innocents and find comfort from a stalwart of the traditional mystery.
Disclaimer: A digital galley of this title was provided to BOLO Books by the publisher. No promotion was promised and the above is an unbiased review of the novel.