Crime Classic: “A Share in Death”

9212204A Share in Death by Deborah Crombie (Duncan Kincaid & Gemma James #1)
Avon, August 26, 2003 (Mystery)

My rating: Beach Vacation (3/5)

Deborah Crombie is an author I’ve heard about and recommended often, but I have to admit that I’d never picked up one of her books. It was time.

A Share in Death marks the beginning of Crombie’s popular series featuring Scotland Yard superintendent Duncan Kincaid and his sergeant, Gemma James. Book one opens with Kincaid taking a much needed vacation, unfortunately this turns into a working holiday when someone is murdered and Kincaid finds himself up against the local coppers in his search to find justice.

I was surprised reading this book at how much of a “cozy” quality there was. I was expecting violence and suspense, something a little more grittier, but I didn’t get that here. There was a lot of description of the details surrounding Kincaid and it lent a participatory quality to the mystery. If you paid close enough attention, you were sure to determine the guilty party.

Since I’m not a much of a mystery fan, I wasn’t enamored of the level of description in A Share in Death. I tend to like the focus to stay on the main characters. The description certainly went a long way into presenting a strong sense of place as well as providing clues to solving the mystery for the reader. From the very first page, readers are sucked into Yorkshire.

Duncan Kincaid’s holiday began well. As he turned the car into the lane, a shaft of sun broke through the clouds and lit a patch of rolling Yorkshire moor as if someone had thrown the switch on a celestial spotlight.

Drystone walls ran like pale runes across the brilliant green of pasture, where luminous sheep nibbled, unconcerned with their importance in the composition. The scene seemed set off in a time as well as space, and gave him the sensation of viewing a living tapestry, a world remote and utterly unattainable. The clouds shifted again, the vision fading as swiftly as it had come, and he felt an odd shiver of loss at its passing (p. 1).

While physical descriptions are liberally shared here, character development does play a role A Share in Death, and I think to get it’s full impact you need to be invested in the series. What is shared in A Share in Death is an introduction to both Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James. Duncan seems to be at a standstill with regards to his personal life; he seems to be looking for something that’s missing. While Gemma, ten years younger, is just getting by raising her young son on her own. I certainly want to know more about both characters, but I don’t feel like I know either of them yet. Time to place some holds at the library.

The mystery itself was comfortably predictable. I wouldn’t say this one is filled with a high level of suspense, but I was compelled to read to the end, even though I had my suspicious about the guilty suspect. There is something comforting about a certain level of predictable events and I can honestly say this is what draws me to other genre fiction like romance or fantasy. While readers do want change, there is a reason that readers turn to books that follow a conventional plot, and I think that’s the case with this series.

Another thing that I did not expect was the inclusion of points of view from characters other than Duncan and Gemma. There are sections that are presented to readers from murder victims and attempted victims. I think this is another technique that lent well to the participatory quality of the narrative. Readers occasionally knew more than Duncan and could start to pull the pieces together and solve the mystery. From working in a public library, I know there is a huge market for these kinds of murder mysteries, and as a non-mystery reader, it often stumps me when helping people find similar reads.

Is A Share in Death my new favourite book? Probably not, but I did like the mystery and I do feel compelled to read further in the series to get to know the characters. And it’s nice to have actually read a book that I have and will continue to recommend.

Similar Reads

While the Lady Darby series is historical, I do think there is enough similarities to make this suggestion work. Both series rely on their characters and neither is overly graphic in the crime scene content. I will say that the Lady Darby series is more romantic in nature, but that works for me. Start with The Anatomist’s Wife.

The Anatomist's Wife (Lady Darby, #1)

Another historical mystery series since it’s apparently the only kind of mystery that I read! C.S. Harris’ Sebastian St. Cyr series is also a good match for fans of Deborah Crombie. Harris’ series has a high level of detail in the physical surroundings of her books, which I appreciate more when in a historical context. Character development is also phenomenal here. Start with What Angels Fear.

What Angels Fear (Sebastian St. Cyr, #1)

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