A Finer End (Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James Series #7)

A Finer End (Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James Series #7)

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by Deborah Crombie

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Scotland Yard Detective Superintendent Duncan Kincaid and his partner Sergeant Gemma James return in another spellbinding novel of mysteries—one contemporary, one ancient—an investigation that will challenge them personally and professionally as no case ever has. From the award-winning author of the acclaimed Kissed a Sad Goodbye...



Scotland Yard Detective Superintendent Duncan Kincaid and his partner Sergeant Gemma James return in another spellbinding novel of mysteries—one contemporary, one ancient—an investigation that will challenge them personally and professionally as no case ever has. From the award-winning author of the acclaimed Kissed a Sad Goodbye...


When Duncan Kincaid’s cousin Jack calls from Glastonbury to ask for his help on a rather unusual matter, Duncan welcomes the chance to spend a relaxing weekend outside of London with Gemma—but relaxation isn’t on the agenda. Glastonbury is revered as the site of an ancient abbey, the mythical burial place of King Arthur and Guinevere, and a source of strong druid power. Jack has no more than a passing interest in its history—until he comes across an extraordinary chronicle almost a thousand years old. The record reveals something terrible and bloody shattered the abbey’s peace long ago—knowledge that will spark violence that reaches into the present. Soon it is up to Duncan and Gemma to find the truth the local police cannot see. But no one envisions the peril that lies ahead—or that there is more at stake than they ever dreamed possible.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This seventh mystery featuring Scotland Yard detectives and lovers Duncan Kincaid and Gemma Jones, a finely nuanced novel replete with multilayered characters and a rare narrative patience, shows Crombie at the top of her form after the relatively weak Kissed a Sad Goodbye (1999). The spirit of Edmund, a Glastonbury monk, possesses a cousin of Duncan's, architect Jack Montfort, prompting him to write in scholarly medieval Latin of a missing relic and a chant hidden in the nearby abbey. Among those who form an alliance to decipher the meaning of Jack's writings are Faith, a pregnant teenager, and Garnet, a reclusive artist. Nick, who works at the local bookstore, is besotted with Faith and suspicious of the free-spirited Garnet. When Jack's girlfriend, Winnie, is hit by a car and left for dead and Garnet murdered, Jack invites Duncan and Gemma to Glastonbury to help investigate. The author covers a lot of ground, from Arthurian legend (the abbey may be Arthur and Guinevere's final resting place) to Jack's lineage, which stretches back to Edmund the monk. Who fathered Faith's child is a protracted mystery, while the unearthly beauty of Glastonbury Tor draws believers and skeptics alike, giving solace to troubled souls and stirring others to perform dark deeds. Throughout, the author sustains the sharp sense of a magical history bleeding into the present, even if the denouement is too traditional for all the preceding trappings. Agent, Nancy Yost. (May 8) Forecast: Nominated for Edgar and Macavity awards, Crombie should sell to the same audience that has made Elizabeth George and P.D. James bestsellers. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Something uncanny is happening in the ancient town of Glastonbury. Teenaged Faith Wills, who's run away from home to have her baby, is suddenly taken in by Garnet Todd, the ex-midwife who seems to know all about her, even though they've just met. Nick Carlisle, who completed a degree in philosophy and theology only to end up clerking in a New Age bookshop, feels his life quicken with new purpose once he meets Faith. Anglican priest Winifred Catesby's brother Andrew, her best friend since childhood, is acting unaccountably remote and cruel. Winnie's friend Fiona Finn Allen has been painting images she doesn't understand in an uneasy attempt to get them off her mind. And widowed architect Jack Montfort is the agent, or the victim, of a stream of automatic writing that's evidently channeling 11th-century monk Edmund of Glastonbury. Jack's cousin, Superintendent Duncan Kincaid of the Metropolitan Police, is visiting with his lover, newly promoted Inspector Gemma James, when the pervasive weirdness erupts in violence, leaving one victim in a coma and a second dead. Supernatural forces are invoked far too often and earnestly to be the mere red herring you might expect; but what role do they play in the very human drama unfolding around Glastonbury Tor, the peak Faith feels she must climb despite her delicate condition? A perceptive study of the moments when the veil between this world and the next is thinnest-and quite a departure from Crombie's usual work (Kissed a Sad Goodbye, 1999, etc.). The powerful magic she finds in Glastonbury isn't for everyone.

From the Publisher
“CROMBIE has laid claim to the literary territory of moody psychological suspense owned by P. D. James and Barbara Vine.”
-The Washington Post

“Intricately layered.”
-The New York Times

“A finely nuanced novel complete with multilayered characters...CROMBIE at the top of her form.”
-Publishers Weekly

“Splendid entertainment.”
-Chicago Tribune

Product Details

Random House Publishing Group
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Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James Series , #7
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Random House
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3 MB

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Imagination is a great gift, a Divine power of the mind, and may be trained and educated to create and to receive only that which is true.
-- Frederick Bligh Bond, from The Gate of Remembrance

The shadows crept into Jack Montfort's small office, filling the corners with a comfortable dimness. He'd come to look forward to his time alone at the day's end -- he told himself he got more done without phones ringing and the occasional client calling in, but perhaps, he thought wryly, it was merely that he had little enough reason to go home.

Standing at his window, he gazed down at the pedestrians hurrying along either side of Magdalene Street, and wondered idly where they were all scurrying off to so urgently on a Wednesday evening. Across the street the Abbey gates had shut at five, and as he watched, the guard let the last few stragglers out from the grounds. The March day had been bright with a biting wind, and Jack imagined that anyone who'd been enticed by the sun into wandering around the Abbey's fishpond would be chilled to the bone. Now the remaining buttresses of the great church would be silhouetted against the clear rose of the eastern sky, a fitting reward for those who had braved the cold.

He'd counted himself lucky to get the two-room office suite with its first-floor view over the Market Square and the Abbey gate. It was a prime spot, and the restrictions involved in renovating a listed building hadn't daunted him. His years in London had given him experience enough in working round constraints, and he'd managed to update the rooms to his satisfaction without going over his budget. He'd hired a secretary to preside over his new reception area, and begun the slow task of building an architectural practice.

And if a small voice still occasionally whispered, Why bother? he did his best to ignore it and get on with things the best way he knew how, although he'd learned in the last few years that plans were ephemeral blueprints. Even as a child, he'd had his life mapped out: university with first-class honors, a successful career as an architect ... wife ... family. What he hadn't bargained for was life's refusal to cooperate. Now they were all gone -- his mum, his dad ... Emily. At forty, he was back in Glastonbury. It was a move he'd have found inconceivable twenty years earlier, but here he was, alone in his parents' old house on Ashwell Lane, besieged by memories.

Rolling up his shirtsleeves, he sat at his desk and positioned a blank sheet of paper in the pool of light cast by his Anglepoise lamp. Sitting round feeling sorry for himself wasn't going to do a bit of good, and he had a client expecting a bid tomorrow morning on a residential refurbishment. And besides, if he finished his work quickly, he could look forward to the possibility of dinner with Winnie.

The thought of the unexpected entry of Winifred Catesby into his life made him smile. Besieged by arranged dates as soon as his mother's well-meaning friends decided he'd endured a suitable period of mourning, he'd found the effort of making conversation with needy divorcees more depressing than time spent alone. He'd begged off so often that the do-gooders had declared him hopeless and finally left him alone.

Relieved of unwelcome obligations, he'd found himself driving the five miles to Wells for the solace of the Evensong service in the cathedral more and more frequently. The proximity of the cathedral choir was one of the things that had drawn him back to Glastonbury -- he'd sung at Wells as a student in the cathedral school, and the experience had given him a lifelong passion for church music.

And then one evening a month ago, as he found his usual place in the ornately carved stall in the cathedral choir, she had slipped in beside him -- a pleasantly ordinary-looking woman in her thirties, with light brown hair escaping from beneath a floppy velvet hat, and a slightly upturned nose. He had not noticed her particularly, just nodded in the vague way one did as she took her seat. The service began, and in that moment when the first high reach of the treble voices sent a shiver down his spine, she had met his eyes and smiled.

Afterwards, they had chatted easily, naturally, and as they walked out of the cathedral together, deep in discussion of the merits of various choirs, he'd impulsively invited her for a drink at the pub down the street. It wasn't until he'd helped her out of her coat that he'd seen the clerical collar.

Emily, always chiding him for his conservatism, would have been delighted by his consternation. And Emily, he felt sure, would have liked Winnie. He extended a finger to touch the photograph on his desktop and Emily gazed back at him, her dark eyes alight with humor and intelligence.

His throat tightened. Would the ache of his loss always lie so near the surface? Or would it one day fade to a gentle awareness, as familiar and unremarkable as a burr beneath the skin? But did he really want that? Would he be less himself without Emily's constant presence in his mind?

He grinned in spite of himself. Emily would tell him to stop being maudlin and get on with the task at hand. With a sigh, he looked down at his paper, then blinked in surprise.

He held a pen in his right hand, although he didn't remember picking it up. And the page, which had been blank a moment ago, was covered in an unfamiliar script. Frowning, he checked for another sheet beneath the paper. But there was only the one page, and as he examined it more closely, he saw that the small, precise script seemed to be in Latin. As he recalled enough of his schoolboy vocabulary to make a rough translation, his frown deepened.

Know ye what we ... Jack puzzled a moment before deciding on builded, then there was something he couldn't make out, then the script continued, ... in Glaston. Meaning Glastonbury? It was fair as, ... any earthly thing, and had I not loved it overmuch my spirit would not cling to dreams of all now vanished.

Ye love full well what we have loved. The time ... Here Jack was forced to resort to the dog-eared Latin dictionary in his bookcase, and after concluding that the phrase had something to do with sleeping or sleepers, went impatiently on ... to wake, for Glaston to rise against the darkness. We have ... something ... long for you ... it is in your hands....

After this sentence there was a trailing squiggle beginning with an E, which might have been a signature, perhaps "Edmund."

Was this some sort of a joke, invisible ink that appeared when exposed to the light? But his secretary didn't strike him as a prankster, and he'd taken the paper from a ream he'd just unwrapped himself. That left only the explanation that he had penned these words -- alien in both script and language. But that was absurd. How could he have done so, unaware?

The walls of Jack's office leaned in on him, and the silence, usually so soothing, seemed alive with tension. He felt breathless, as if all the air in the small room had been used up.

Who were "they," who had built in Glastonbury and who wrote in Latin? The monks of the Abbey, he supposed, a logical answer. And "he," who had "loved it overmuch," whose spirit "still clung to dreams long vanished"? The ghost of a monk? Worse by the minute.

What did "rise against the darkness" mean? And what had any of it to do with him? The whole thing was completely daft; he refused to consider it any further.

Crumpling the page, Jack swiveled his chair round, hand lifted to toss it in the bin, then stopped and returned the paper to his desk, smoothing the creases out with his palm.

Frederick Bligh Bond. The name sprang into his mind, dredged from the recesses of his childhood. The architect who, just before the First World War, had undertaken the first excavations at Glastonbury Abbey, then revealed that he had been directed by messages from the Abbey monks. Had Bond received communications like this? But Bond had been loony. Cracked!

Ripping the sheet of paper in half, Jack dropped the pieces in the bin, slipped into his jacket, and, sketch pad in hand, took the stairs down to the street two at a time.

He stepped out into Benedict Street, fumbling with unsteady fingers to lock his office door. Across the Market Square, the leaded windows of the George & Pilgrims beckoned. A drink, he thought with a shiver, was just what he needed. He'd work on his proposal, and the crowded bar of the old inn would surely make an antidote to whatever it was that had just happened to him.

Tugging his collar up against the wind, he sidestepped a group of adolescent skateboarders who found the smooth pavement round the Market Cross a perfect arena. A particularly fierce gust sent a sheet of paper spiraling past his cheek. He grabbed at it in instinctive self-defense, glancing absently at what he held in his fingers. Pink. A flyer, from the Avalon Society. Glastonbury Assembly Rooms, Saturday, 7:30 to 9:30. An introduction to crystal energy and its healing powers, showing how the chakras and crystals correspond. Make elixirs and learn how to energize your environment.

"Oh, bloody perfect," he muttered, crumpling the paper and tossing it back to the wind. That was the worst sort of nonsense, just the type of thing that drew the most extreme New Age followers to Glastonbury. Ley lines ... crop circles ... Druid magic on Glastonbury Tor, the ancient, conical hill that rose above the town like a beacon...

Although Jack, like generations of his family, had grown up in the Tor's shadow, he'd never given any credence to all the mystical rubbish associated with it -- nor to the myths that described Glastonbury as some sort of cosmic mother lode.

So why on earth had he just scribbled what seemed to be a garbled message from some long-dead monk? Was he losing his mind? A delayed reaction to grief, perhaps? He had read about post-traumatic stress syndrome -- could that explain what had happened to him? But somehow he sensed it was more than that. For an instant, he saw again the small, precise script, a thing of beauty in itself, and felt a tug of familiarity in the cadence of the language.

He resumed his walk to the pub, then a thought stopped him midstride. What if -- what if it were even remotely possible that he had made contact with the dead? Did that mean ... could it mean he was capable of instigating contact at will? Emily--

From the Hardcover edition.

Meet the Author

Deborah Crombie's Duncan Kincaid/Gemma James novels have been nominated for the Agatha, Macavity, and Edgar Awards. She lives with her family in a small North Texas town, where she is at work on the next book of the series, And Justice There Is None.

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A Finer End (Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James Series #7) 4 out of 5 based on 1 ratings. 11 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Billyt1 More than 1 year ago
A good bounce back from kissed a Sad goodbye. The mystery was better and the secondary characters i.e. Winnie and jack were solid. However the relationship between Duncan and Gemma continues to stumbles along A chasm had opened between them at the end of the previous novel and this one starts out with another lie before she can finally tell him she is going to break up their professional relationship. When she returns from training, the awkwardness continues as he states he was expecting an in person "Dear Duncan". and that she had met someone new. She knows the transfer has put a severe strain on the relationship yet as important issues arise shes uses the excuse to limit more time at work to limit their contact. If being apart is the issue, why create excuses to be apart more? Does she want the relationship to or is subconsciously trying to sabotage it? One wonders that if she hadn't changed her mind about the weekend in Glastonbury whether a permanent wedge wouldn't have been created. Will Gemma's problem with commitment (she has made it clear marriage is not an option) and her number 1 priority: her job drive them apart. They certainly are locked in for now, but she won't talk to her parents about him and she can't talk to him about important issues. She thinks about her own failure to communicate with Duncan about what lay closest to her heart. Duncan deserves more.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
What twists and turns in this addition to the series! Gemma knows she needs to share something with Kincade, her grappling with this personal situation through this story just added more to the murders and mysteries! Each book is better then the last. Deborah Crombie is phenomenal.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Interesting story line and full of historical information, but strained my credulity. Not as much development of the Duncan, Gemma relationship and more emphasis on relationships in the Abby's history.
trbCA More than 1 year ago
The storyline was atypical in my opinion. Had a bit more history and a longer period before the Gemma character entered. I liked it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
harstan More than 1 year ago
Many people believe the earth contains special places of power such as Stonehenge and the Bermuda Triangle. Not quite as known as the others is Glastonbury in England, considered source of power within the nearby ruins. Locals believe that King Arthur is buried there and whenever his nation needs him, he responds to the call. Superintendent Duncan Kincaid's cousin Jack begins doing automatic scribing that is believed to emanate from Edward, a Glastonbury monk dead for almost a century. A group forms that is interested in what Edward is saying through Jack. However, when a car purposely hits a group member, Jack turns to Duncan for help. Along with his significant other Gemma, Duncan investigates only to observe another murder from a killer who must be stopped immediately.

Duncan and Gemma play a pivotal but secondary role in A FINER END. The real drama centers on the past and present Glastonbury and the people who feel its power. Deborah Crombie has written a tale about a community as well as a mystery that showcases strong characterizations. Readers who believe in the force will find magic in the pages of Ms. Crombie's latest masterpiece.

Harriet Klausner

Patricia Borowiel More than 1 year ago
A rather prrdictable whodunit, but still a good read.