murder on the Thames

No Mark Upon Her by Deborah Crombie

I love a good British mystery novel, but I always have trouble deciding which one to pick up. Not being familiar with most of the authors, it’s usually a hit-or-miss affair based on a random selection or recommendations. So far, I’ve discovered a few gems, but the genre is over-saturated and making a good choice is a daunting task. No Mark Upon Her was a definite hit and makes me want to find the rest of Crombie’s series post-haste!

This is the 14th novel in the Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James series, so I was somewhat ambivalent about delving into a series so late in the game, but I soon found that there were enough details to establish the history between Duncan and Gemma. Moreover, despite being part of an established series, the plot works well as a standalone mystery, so familiarity with the specifics of the series was unnecessary to follow the novel’s premise.

The novel opens with the sudden, suspicious death of Detective Chief Inspector Rebecca Meredith, a former rower trying to make a comeback who is found floating in the Thames after being reported missing. Assigned to the case just days before he is set to take a family leave, Duncan Kincaid finds himself drawn into an investigation that goes deeper than expected, laying suspicion on a high-ranking former member of the Metropolitan police and a possible connection to a series of unsolved assault charges. The pace is fast, as Crombie lays clues that hint at more than the reader imagines, producing a plot that is complex and very engaging.

Like all great mystery writers, Crombie knows how to play with her reader’s perception. She introduces every possible suspect, exposing their flaws and connections with just enough detail to draw suspicion but never reveal the culprit. The dynamic between Gemma and Duncan and their easy ability to exchange information and follow each other’s lead adds to the narrative tone and makes the reader feel like an active part of the search for the killer.

As I said, I wasn’t sure I would be able to get into the novel when I learned it was such a late entry in the series, but this was not an issue once the case was set and the action started. It was a fast-paced, engrossing read and (best of all) not the least bit predictable. Loved that. I hate a predictable mystery but Crombie kept me guessing ‘til the end when that “aha!” moment happened and it all became clear. This is a great read for anyone who likes a good mystery where it’s all about the process of finding the culprit, not the gory aspects of murder.

I received my copy from William Morrow.

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