The Barnes & Noble Review
Deborah Crombie is building a reputation for creating powerful and dramatic mysteries. Her protagonists, Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James, have more in common than the home and love they share, they're also both Scotland Yard detectives.
In a Dark House puts Gemma and Duncan's multilayered relationship to the test, as these two gifted investigators find themselves working a brutal and complex case from differing perspectives. It starts simply…Superintendent Kincaid is called in to "help" when a member of Parliament's venture into real estate goes up in smoke. At first Duncan expects that his role will be limited to keeping the politician's involvement out of the limelight. But the discovery of the body of a nude young woman at the fire scene guarantees he'll soon be doing more than damage control.
Gemma comes to the case through unofficial channels, when her offer to help a friend whose lodger has vanished reveals unmistakable signs of a double life. When the M.P.'s wayward daughter disappears, Gemma and Duncan discover disturbing evidence linking that to another missing-persons case -- one where an angry father, desperate to remove his daughter from his ex-wife's care, entrusted his little girl to a virtual stranger, only to have both the woman and child disappear without a trace. Carefully, patiently, Duncan and Gemma tease out the connections between the brutalized corpse, the missing women, the kidnapped girl…and a series of suspicious fires that suggest a pattern of accelerating danger. Sue Stone
A serial arsonist nutter is on the loose in London in Crombie's assured 10th book starring Scotland Yard Det. Supt. Duncan Kincaid and his lover/partner Det. Insp. Gemma James. When a nude, charred female corpse turns up in a burned warehouse, the police discover that the unidentified victim, one of four possible women, was murdered beforehand. Duncan and Gemma also look into the abduction of 10-year-old Harriet Novak, a pawn in her parents' ongoing acrimonious divorce. As the investigation by both fire officials and police evolves, it becomes clear that the abduction is connected to the murder. Young, eager firefighter Rose Kearny, who found the body in the burning building, works the case on her own and comes up with a theory that may explain the arsonist's unusual motive. Fanny Liu, confined to a wheelchair, fears the worst when her roommate goes missing, and a nearby home for battered women apparently connects several aspects of the case. It's a web of gossamer-thin clues that police, under the patient Superintendent Kincaid, work to untangle as they race against time to find the imperiled Harriet. Myriad subplots that have accrued from past entries slow the action in places, but Duncan and Gemma are such interesting and attractive characters that few readers will mind. Agent, Nancy Yost. (Oct. 12) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Favorite Scotland Yard detectives Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James are saving damsels in distress in this latest by the author of Dreaming of Bones, a 1997 New York Times Book of the Year. Crombie lives in a small North Texas town. Six-city author tour. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
“As always, Ms. Crombie peoples her novel with well-drawn, interesting characters.
Crombie’s steady hand drives teh story--and the likable Kincaid and james--safely home again.
New York Times Book Review
“Crombie keeps this series on its toes with her smooth procedural techniques and engagingly eccentric characters.”
“Crombie...has evolved into a masterful novelist.”
“Crombie has laid claim to the literary territory of moody psychological suspense owned by P.D. James and Barbara Vine.”
“Rich and complex.”
Richmond Times-Dispatch on In a Dark House
In this dark house, the author’s light shines brightly.
Dallas Morning News
“An uncanny affinity for the English detective genre...Her characters are three-dimensional and are drawn with compassion and sensitivity.”
Harrisburg Patriot News
“A master of the modern British mystery...one writer who gets better with every book.”
Read an Excerpt
In a Dark House
London ... Smoke lowering down from chimney-pots,
making a soft black drizzle,with flakes of soot in it as big as
full-grown snowflakesgone into mourning, one might
imagine, for the death of the sun.
It took no more than a match, nestled beneath the crumpled paper and foil crisp packets. The flame smoldered, then flared and crackled, and within seconds tongues reached out for the bottom layer of furniture stacked so conveniently on the ground floor of the old warehouse. Nothing burned like polyurethane foam, and the cheap chairs, sofas, and mattresses removed from the flats on the upper floors of the building were old enough not to have been treated with fire retardants.
A gift. It was a gift. He could hardly have asked for more if he had assembled the ingredients for a perfect fire himself. The furniture would generate enough heat for flashover, then the old wooden floorboards and ceiling joists would blaze with a beautiful fury. The fire would take on a life of its own, separate from its creator.
And the fire had power, that he had learned early on, power to ex-hilarate, power to transform, power to induce wonder and terror. He had first read about the great Tooley Street fire of 1861 in school, which seemed to him now an odd place to have discovered a life's calling.
The conflagration had burned for two days and consumed over three hundred yards of wharf and warehouse, damage unequaled since the Great Fire of 1666, damage not to be seen again until the Blitz.
There had been other fires, of course: the Mustard Mills in 1814, Topping's Wharf in 1843, Bankside in 1855; it seemed to him that fire was as necessary to Southwark as birth and death, that it provided an essential means of growth and regeneration.
Heat began to sear his face; the skin across his cheekbones and forehead felt stretched, his nostrils began to sting from the smoke and escaping gas. The blaze was well under way now, burrowing deep into the pile of furniture, then licking out in unexpected places. It was time for him to go, but still he lingered, unable to tear himself from the energy that gave him more than a sexual charge -- it was a glimpse into the heart of life itself. If he gave himself up to it, let it consume him, would he at last know the truth?
But still, he resisted complete surrender. Shaking himself, he blinked against the stinging in his eyes and took a last look round, making sure he had left no trace. Satisfied, he slipped out the way he had come. He would watch from a distance as the fire mounted to its inevitable climax and then ... then there would be other fires. There were always other fires.
Rose Kearny liked night duty best, when the station was quiet except for the muted murmur of voices in the staff room as everyone went about their assigned tasks. There was something comforting about the camaraderie inside held against the dark outside, and in the easing of the adrenaline rush after a call-out. And she considered herself lucky to have ended up at Southwark, the station where she had trained, and the most historic in the London Fire Brigade.
She and her partner, Bryan Simms, were checking their breathing apparatus after the first bell of the night -- a little old lady in a council flat, having decided to make herself a bedtime snack, had dozed off with the chip pan on the burner. Fortunately, a neighbor had seen the first sign of smoke, the blaze had been easily contained, and the woman had escaped serious injury.
But every fire call, no matter how minor, required a careful examination of any equipment they had used. Tonight she and Bryan had been assigned BA crew and their lives depended on the efficiency of their breathing apparatus -- and on each other. Simms, at twenty-three a year older than Rose, was as steady and reliable as his square, blunt face implied, and not inclined to panic.
He looked up at her, as if sensing her regard, and frowned in concentration. "'What's in a name?'" he asked, as if continuing a conversation. "'That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.'"
For a moment, Rose was too startled to respond. Not that she wasn't used to being teased about her name, or her fair looks, but this was the first time one of her fellow firefighters had resorted to Shakespeare.
Taking her silence as encouragement, Bryan went on, grinning, "'But earthlier happy is the rose distilled, than that which withering on the virgin thorn grows, lives, and dies in single blessedness -- "
"Piss off, Simms,"Rose interrupted, smothering a laugh. She had to admit she was impressed he'd gone to the trouble of memorizing the line. "I'd never have taken you for a Shakespeare buff."
"I like the second one. It's from A Midsummer Night's Dream," said Simms, and she wondered if she had imagined a blush in his dark skin as he bent again over his task.
"You don't say," Rose retorted with a smile. "And Romeo and Juliet as well.Aren't you the clever one."Her father, a high school English teacher, had begun quoting Shakespeare to her before she could talk. "Look sharp there," she added, glancing at his neglected equipment."You don't want to miss a crack in that hose."
She'd started with the Southwark Fire Brigade six months before Bryan, and she never missed an opportunity to remind him of her seniority. It was hard enough, being female in what was still basically a man's profession, and she certainly couldn't afford a partner with some half-baked romantic idea about their relationship.
Rose meant to go far, perhaps even divisional officer one day, and she wasn't about to let an entanglement stand in her way ... In a Dark House. Copyright © by Deborah Crombie. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.