32. And Justice There Is None - eighth in the Duncan Kincaid/Gemma James series
by Deborah Crombie
Kindle book - 17
In this book, Deborah Crombie returns to London and sets her mystery in the Notting Hill area. Many of us have seen the 1999 movie of the same name, and I would guess more than a few of us think it would be a lovely place to live: beautiful, hip, artistic. It wasn't always thus. The author includes chapter heading quotes from two books - one called Portobello and the other, Notting Hill in the Sixties. From the latter:
If you saw Notting Hill at the beginning of the sixties, it would be hard to recognize it as the same place you see today. Nowadays Notting Hill is wealthy and gentrified. Go back thirty years and the area is a massive slum, full of multi-occupied houses, crawling with rats and rubbish.Unbelievable, isn't it? The book bridges both time periods. People who grew up in the earlier time, are adults today. Events in the past influence the present.
On her website, Deborah Crombie is asked:
How much time do you spend researching each novel before you begin writing it? And how much time do you spend in Britain doing background research for each book?
I usually go to Britain two to three times during the course of a book. I’ve chosen the setting when I make the first trip, so I use that time to survey the area, take photos and notes, acquire research materials (I usually buy so many books I have to ship them home) and generally get the feel for the book. Once home, I spend several months researching, plotting and outlining. Then, when I’ve actually made a good start on writing, I need to make at least one more visit to check details I know I will need in the now-outlined plot and absorbing a bit more atmosphere. And these days I try to block out writing time in the UK as well.Along with her great writing, and excellent story lines and characters, the author's sense of place is one of the strongest facets in her books. In each one, she takes the reader to a new location, and tells us historical background. I have learned so much about England and Scotland from reading this series, but especially London. I love how she focuses on a different section of the city each time. I think it is a brilliant device and wonder if anyone else has ever done this. I know there are writers who offer a vivid setting, but I don't think I know any who take a particular city, and set a mystery in a different area each time. This brings London alive to those of us who do not live there. We may have visited in person, or have seen it through books and movies, but she really teaches us what an area was, and is now.
And Justice There is None, in addition to giving the reader a view of the Notting Hill area, also talks a lot about the antiques trade in Portobello Road; and the Portobello Market, 'one of the most popular street markets in the world.' One of my favorite songs makes mention of it:
... in your parachute suit that you bought in Portobellofrom Spring Collection, The Vapors. Though I couldn't find a video, you may listen to the song here.
When Dawn Arrowood is found murdered, Kincaid is reminded of another unsolved murder which happened in the same manner. Is there a connection between the two? Are they rooted in the past? And then a possible murderer is found dead himself. The police are mystified. This is a very complex story, though not difficult for the reader to follow. We read on almost breathless, wondering what on earth is going on, and what is the link between these people from different time periods.
Again, I'm not talking too much about Gemma and Duncan because it wouldn't be fair to those readers who haven't met them yet and followed their development as characters. They are not like Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin whose lives and whose relationship rarely varies from book to book. Deborah Crombie's characters are like real people. The reader approaches each new book in the series with great interest and anticipation, wondering what's up with the two main characters. I like how each book takes place not too long after the one preceding it. And I like the way she will bring up something in the past to remind a long-time reader, or bring a new reader up to date. You really don't have to read them in order, but it is such a treat to do so.