Sunday, April 3, 2011

Kissed a Sad Goodbye by Deborah Crombie

26. Kissed a Sad Goodbye - sixth in the Duncan Kincaid/Gemma James series
by Deborah Crombie
mystery, 1999
finished, 3/27/11

I was hoping to build my whole Deborah Crombie library on the Kindle, but this one wasn't available so I bought a used copy. And of course, as these things always go, it is now available on the Kindle. In fact, I think all of her books are now there.

As I've noted before, she is a great writer. I'm going to go out on the proverbial limb here and say that she rivals P.D. James in the complexity and detail of her novels.

Kissed a Sad Goodbye is a multi-leveled story which takes us to different places and different times. Naturally they all connect, and that connection is the murder of a young woman, Annabelle Hammond who runs an historic tea company on the Isle of Dogs in London. The book features a map of this area

showing the reader where everyone lives and works. Each chapter begins with a passage from one of two books- Dockland: An Illustrated Historical Survey of Life and Work in East London (1986), or Memories of Childhood on the Isle of Dogs, 1870-1970 (1993). These make a fascinating background to what we are reading about. The area was hit rather badly during the Second World War, and hence many children were evacuated from the city. We meet some of these children in italicized sections scattered throughout the book. When they appear in the present day we know something about their earlier lives. I had a feeling that something bad was going to happen in the past, and indeed it did. I mention this in way of a caveat - there is a graphic, most unpleasant incident which is pivotal to the story. It causes an event which echoes fifty years on.

This book begins two months after Dreaming of the Bones ended, and the reader sees that life is proceeding onward in the lives of Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James. As always, I won't go into much detail because their personal situations change with each story. But I will say that they are very interesting and real characters. By this, the sixth book we know them pretty well, or think we do, but as in real life, there are shifts and surprises.

When Duncan and Gemma begin their investigation at the dead woman's home, there's a nice section about books.
What people chose to read never failed to fascinate him, and he crossed the room to take a closer look.
There were a number of hardcover best-sellers, and a handful of titles that he recognized as being novels about successful women overcoming obstacles. None showed a particularly adventurous or introspective turn of mind, and all were tucked neatly between brass or alabaster bookends, with the spines arranged according to height rather than by content or author. It seemed as though Annabelle Hammond had been as tidy in her reading habits as she was in her housekeeping, and had reserved her passions for things other than books.
Because the victim is connected with the tea trade, there is some fascinating information for the reader.
"We don't make the tea, Superintendent. We blend and package it, and our production and shipping staff work five-day weeks." ... One side of the table's length held ranks of worn, tin tea caddies and plain foil bags; the other a neat row of rectangular, white porcelain bowls.
"The tasting table. We don't sell just any tea. First it must be blended, and Hammond's has been famous for its blends for a hundred and twenty-five years. We buy the tea at auction - mainly from India and Sri Lanka, but since the late seventies China has opened up to us again, and some tea is exported from Africa and even South America."
"Sri Lanka - that used to be Ceylon? Some of these say Ceylon."
"Teas from Sri Lanka are known as Ceylon teas in the trade. But in Sri Lanka alone there are over two thousand different tea gardens - those are the estates on which tea is grown - and each estate has a number of different pluckings, or harvests, a year, depending on its altitude. And the tea from each of those pluckings can vary in taste and quality."
Annabelle's various and complicated relationships make for a great deal of unraveling the detectives must do to get to the center of this crime. This is one of the best mysteries I've read, and yet another installment in this great, great series.


  1. This may begin a new addiction for me! I love P.D.James' writing for it's beautiful detail and intelligence. So, perhaps it's time to read Deborah Crombie- I admit a new name to me.
    I enjoy your blog very much.

  2. Wow-- as good as PD James? I don't think I've ever read a Deborah Crombie or even remember reading anything abouther.

    But your comparison is a good enough recommendation for me. More for my TBR List.

  3. One of my favorite series! I love the maps, the characters, and the stories!

  4. Mary and Sallie, if you want to read more book reports on Deborah Crombie's work, click on the 'authors' tab under the blog header pic. I think she is really, really wonderful. Thank you both for your kind words!

  5. That's just how I feel, Jenclair!

  6. I love your reviews! I've been rereading the Deborah Crombie series right along with you. It's fascinating to watch the relationships between the series characters grow and change as the series goes on. Thanks for a fascinating post.
    Hope you're having a wonderful spring!
    Canadian Chickadee

  7. Nan, that books sounds like it is right up my alley! I will have to look out for a copy of this. Thanks for the review!

  8. Thanks to you, Nan. I've read the first three books in this series and enjoyed them. At some point I will catch up as I go along. So many series, so little time.

  9. Canadian Chickadee, this pleases me so much! I have just begun A Finer End, and am finding it fascinating. What a good writer she is.

    Sherri, you might want to start with the first one since the characters grow and change with each book. If you click on the author tab under the blog header picture, you can see all the ones I've written about.

    Yvette, you are so right!

  10. Nan, I first discovered this series when you wrote about it previously, and I'm so enjoying it. It has been fascinating to watch the character development in the novels. More importantly, the author's writing has changed with the series. The first book in the Duncan Kincaid/Gemma James series, "A Share in Death," is a comfortable mystery, and I enjoyed those following that one. my mind, the author wrote with much greater depth and levels of story starting with the fifth book. In "Dreaming of the Bones," there are certainly multiple story lines, and it is very interesting to have Rupert Brooke poetry and references to Virginia Woolf woven into the story. Book six is equally as well-rounded with the references to WWII, the development of a part of London, and tidbits about tea - not to mention Duncan's and Gemma's lives.
    I wouldn't have known about this series without your writing about it. Many thanks for your recommendation!

  11. On another quick note, I went to the author's website, and I was able to go to link for maps. Now I can still listen to the book, and I can look at the map!

  12. Marge, I'm very pleased you started reading these books and are liking them! I agree with what you said. DotB took her series to a whole new level. I really loved that book. As I did this one. Now I'm reading A Finer End, set in Glastonbury and I'm learning so, so much about the area's history and present. I had been to her website but not the maps. Thanks so much for letting me know. It is great to be able to make them large and really see all the locations, and I would rather see a map on my computer than go back and forth on the Kindle. The maps add so much to the stories.

  13. I enjoy your 'reviews' of mysteries so much! This morning you remind me that I let deborah crombie fall off my radar, but the library is open again on Saturday.

  14. Thank you, Commonweeder. I'm just now reading the next one, A Finer End, and it is excellent.

  15. Thanks for writing about this series. I am going to add them to the never ending list of books I want to read. This looks a great series and I have been enthused by your posting.

  16. Anglers Rest, I've since read another, and am in the middle of one. I'm learning a tremendous amount about England, as well as enjoying the mysteries and characters. She is really an excellent writer.


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