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A Bitter Feast, by Deborah Crombie.

June 1, 2019

A Bitter Feast
A Bitter Feast, by Deborah Crombie.  HarperCollins, September 2019.

4 stars

Another enjoyable novel in a mystery series about London detectives, Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James, and their family and friends.

Deborah Crombie was born and raised in and around Dallas.  After living for a time to her Great Britain, she has returned to the Dallas area.  Beginning with her Kincaid and James novels in 1993, she has been widely read and rewarded for their excellence.

Crombie has published almost 20 novels about the detective couple Kincaid and James since she began their saga in the 1990s.  They have gone from partners at work to a married couple raising children as they have solved crimes in varied sites around England.  Their series is a saga of loosely connected family and friends, sparked with crimes that reveal how individuals react to extreme situations.   Yet she has kept their stories fresh by balancing previous characters, locations, and plots with new ones.  Although bad things happen in Crombie’s books, her characters are often good, usually balanced people whom the reader can come to know and to be glad to spend time in their presence.

In Bitter Feast, Kincaid. James and friends plan to spend a weekend with the prosperous and prominent parents of Gemma’s detective partner and to attend a gala being held by her mother.  Instead, they become wrapped up in murders.  Action centers around a successful woman who owns and runs the local pub and restraurant .  The plot is complicated, but in the end, we can see why events have developed as they have.   The murderer was deeply involved in the whole plot, not simply added at the last moment to provide a solution.

I started reading Crombie’s novels when they first appeared in the 1990s, a time when feminist and anti-feminist hostility was rife.  I remember being impressed with Gemma who was in no way caught up in that debate.  Her life simply transcended it.  Her story was a romance and then that of a wife and mother, while simultaneously Gemma has had a compelling and independent career, a pattern many women assume they can do today. For me, Crombie’s books, including this one, are “comfort reading” at its best.  If you haven’t read her, do.

PS  If you are a map junkie, check the maps for each book, available at her website.

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