Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Book Review: A Finer End by Deborah Crombie

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...'Ye love full well what we have loved.  The wake, for Glaston to rise against the darkness.  We have...something...long for is in your hands..."

Jack Monfort stared at the strange writing in front of him, thinking at first that it was some kind of joke.  Yet it was his own writing, though in Latin, a language he barely remembered from his schooldays.  Could it be some long-dead monk was communicating with him, taking over his body to write these strange messages? Jack, a widowed architect who had grown up in Glastonbury, didn't believe in any of the "mystical rubbish" associated with the town and the Tor that cast its shadow over his own home.  After some thought, he crumpled up the paper in disgust.

Yet after several similar incidents, Jack must find some answers to this mysterious writing and seeks the help of Simon Fitzstephen, an author and local expert on the early Church in Britain and Grail mythology.  Eventually, the two form a group with an unlikely set of members, including a 17-year-old pregnant runaway who is being sheltered by an eccentric woman best described as an aging hippie. The group meets to discuss the messages, which have come more frequently, and tries to discover the meaning behind them.

Jack doesn't want too many people aware of what is going on, thinking they will suspect that he has lost his mind.  But when a good friend is seriously injured in a suspicious hit-and-run accident, he calls upon his cousin, Scotland Yard Inspector Duncan Kincaid, to come to investigate. Kincaid doesn't want to leave his own caseload of homicides to investigate a possible accident out of his jurisdiction, but then realizes this would be the perfect opportunity for a weekend getaway to mend the strained relationship with his former partner and lover, Gemma James.

Duncan and Gemma's romantic weekend suddenly turns serious as another of Jack's group is found murdered, and the two find themselves involved in a full-fledged investigation.  While the safety of the rest of the group is a concern until the killer is found, Gemma finds herself especially concerned about the welfare of the pregnant teenager, Faith, who seems to face danger of another kind--the mythical dark forces of the Tor, the "Old Ones," threaten chaos and destruction as Samhain, or All Hallows' Eve, approaches.

17th century engraving of Glastonbury--from Wikimedia Commons

Two very likable protagonists, a host of interesting and sometimes eccentric supporting characters, Celtic lore, and the setting of Glastonbury--a site associated with the myth of Joseph of Arimathea and sometimes identified as the Isle of Avalon in Arthurian legends--what more could you ask for in a murder mystery? A Finer End is one of those mysteries that will draw you in and keep you reading late into the night.

The colorful leaves of autumn are bringing the year to a "Finer End" as well.

I first discovered Deborah Crombie's novels sometime in the past year when I was looking for a new mystery. Although Crombie now lives in the U.S., her London and other UK settings ring with authenticity, and her writing reminds me of some of my favorite British mystery writers.  Gemma and Duncan are compassionate and intelligent police officers, not the hard-bitten, cynical cops often found in American detective stories--though I like to read those, too, occasionally.  They are the kind of people you'd like to actually meet.

A Finer End is the seventh of fifteen books in the Duncan Kincaid/Gemma James series. I started with one of her newer books and then picked up some earlier ones in no particular order.  Other than making the development of Duncan and Gemma's relationship a little confusing, it really didn't matter, although I think I'll read the first in the series next.  Let's see--I've read six, so that means I have nine left to read.  That should keep me entertained for many of the cold winter nights ahead!

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@Barrie Summy

Disclaimer: No compensation of any kind was received for this review.  I review only books I enjoy and think others would enjoy reading too.  I purchased and downloaded this book on my Kindle.


  1. You do such a good job rating books! This one sounds good. Since I have been blogging less I've been reading more so I'll have to look for this. Right now I am really into W.E.B. Griffin.

  2. Fifteen books in the series?! Wow! I love how you tie in the photo of the autumn leaves. Do you watch any British crime TV? I'm currentlly hooked on Prime Suspect with Helen Mirren (the British, not the American version). Thank you for the insightful review!

  3. Thanks for the intro to an author new to me. It sound like an interesting mix of elements. It's so nice to have you back to reviewing - a perk of winter?

  4. Have not come across this author before Rose but I see her books are available from our local library :) I like thrillers as long as they are not too bloodthirsty so will have to try this author. Thanks for your review.

  5. Oh, my! You got me! It's on top o' the list for winter reading. :)

  6. I think we must have similar tastes in books --this is not the first time you've read and reviewed a book that I've read and enjoyed as well. I think I've read most of this series, with the exception of one or two of the most recent. I really liked this one that you reviewed as well.

  7. Sounds like a good one! We're starting to consider books for next year's book club, so I'll keep this one in mind. Everyone in my book club seems to like mysteries.

  8. I like reading detective stories as you,Rose. I think this book is so exciting that you will read in one breath the rest of them. Have a nice weekend!

  9. Sounds intriguing. I don't really read a lot of mysteries, but this one sounds appealing.

  10. Ooh, that does sound promising, and a long series too, perfect, off to check them out - thank you!

  11. I shall have to look out for this one too!

  12. Lisa, I think your sister might like this one, too.

    Tina, I'm not familiar with W.E.B. Griffin--will have to check him out.

    Barrie, I used to watch "Prime Suspect"; I didn't know it was still on...or perhaps it's out on DVD. I love Helen Mirren!

    Sarah, Yes, winter is definitely a time for reading--and writing about books, I hope!

    Anna, I haven't read all her books, as I said, but so far they aren't very graphic at all. You won't have nightmares when you get to the end of one!

    Kate, Glad it sounded appealing to you!

    Cassi Renee, That is funny that we enjoy many of the same books. I'd love to hear any reading recommendations from you!

    Beth, This is not a meaty book in terms of themes, though there are certainly enough interesting characters to talk about. My book club has fallen apart, sadly; I'm hoping at least a few will want to re-start it this winter.

    Nadezda, When I find an author I like, I tend to read all her books. Martha Grimes and Elizabeth George are two I'd highly recommend, too.

    Stacy, I try to read books from other genres as well, but I always come back to the mystery section.

    Janet, I do like it when an author has created some interesting and likable characters that they continue the series. It's kind of like visiting with old friends:)

    Liz, Hope you like it!

  13. I've heard a lot about these books from friends who are murder mystery fanatics. The Glastonbury angle, of course, grabs me every time. Guess I'll have to check this one out. Thanks for the review!


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