Crombie, Deborah 1952-
Crombie, Deborah 1952-
Born June 5, 1952, in Dallas, TX; daughter of Charles and Mary Darden; married Rick Wilson, May 14, 1994; children: Katherine Claire. Education: Austin College, B.S., 1976. Religion: Presbyterian. Hobbiesand other interests: Reading, cooking, gardening, her German Shepherd.
Full-time writer, 1993—. Also worked in newspaper advertising and for a family business.
Mystery Writers of America, Sisters-in-Crime, American Crime Writers League, International Association of Crime Writers.
Agatha Award nomination for best first novel, 1993, for A Share in Death; Edgar Award nomination, Agatha Award nomination, Macavity Award, named New York Times "Notable Book of the Year," and "Top 100 Crime Novels of the Century," Independent Booksellers of America, all 1997, for Dreaming of the Bones.
A Share in Death, Scribner (New York, NY), 1993.
All Shall Be Well, Scribner (New York, NY), 1994.
Leave the Grave Green, Scribner (New York, NY), 1995.
Mourn Not Your Dead, Scribner (New York, NY), 1996.
Dreaming of the Bones, Scribner (New York, NY), 1997.
Kissed a Sad Goodbye, Bantam (New York, NY), 1999.
A Finer End, Bantam (New York, NY), 2001.
And Justice There Is None, Bantam (New York, NY), 2002.
Now You May Weep, Morrow (New York, NY), 2003.
In a Dark House, Morrow (New York, NY), 2004.
Water Like a Stone, Morrow (New York, NY), 2007.
Crombie's novels have been published in translation in Japan, Germany, Italy, France, Netherlands, and Norway.
A native Texan, Deborah Crombie lived in England and Scotland before returning to her roots in the United States. Since the early 1990s she has been an internationally acclaimed mystery writer. In an article by Anne Dingus in Texas Monthly, Crombie is quoted as saying, "I wanted to write about what I loved." The author continued: "I've been an Anglophile ever since reading Winnie the Pooh." In 1993 her first novel, A Share in Death, introduced readers to the mystery-solving team of Scotland Yard Detective Superintendent Duncan Kincaid and Sergeant Gemma James. This book was nominated for two awards and has been followed by a number of successful mysteries penned by Crombie.
A Share in Death takes place in modern-day Yorkshire, England, and, according to a critique by Marilyn Stasio for the New York Times Book Review, "scrupulously observes all the dear old [English mystery] genre conventions." In a time-share resort, the assistant manager is found drowned in a pool. The local police inspector suspects suicide, but Kincaid insists on investigating all the guests in typical Agatha Christie fashion. According to a Kirkus Reviews contributor, the story has "a modestly effective solution" and is "quietly competent." A Publishers Weekly contributor called it "a convincingly British whodunit."
The plot of Crombie's second novel, All Shall Be Well, published in 1994, centers on the death of a neighbor of Kincaid's. The death of Jasmine, a cancer victim, is presumed a suicide, but Kincaid again suspects foul play. Investigating a small group of suspects, he and James work their way through the past lives of the suspects and Jasmine to solve the mystery. According to Gail Pool, appraising the novel for Wilson Library Bulletin, the story is "a quietly forceful tale." Stuart Miller noted in Booklist that All Shall Be Well is "an extremely satisfying procedural with good plotting and excellent characterizations."
In 1995 Crombie wrote Leave the Grave Green, which concerns the drowning death of Connor Swann, the son-in-law of a famous opera conductor and a retired singer. When the body is discovered in a Thames river lock, bruises around the neck suggest a violent death. Kincaid and James investigate the deceased's estranged wife, who coincidentally had witnessed her own brother's death by drowning some twenty years before. The investigators also discover that, although Swann lived in his wife's apartment with another woman and her child, he dined regularly with his wife's parents; Kincaid and James hear of his gambling debts and his questionable business history as well. While engrossed in unraveling the mystery, Kincaid and James in this novel also manage to find time for their first romantic interlude.
According to Paul Shenazy in the Washington Post Book World, "Crombie establishes a teasing yet comforting rhythm" in Leave the Grave Green. While noting that at times "the British mannerisms" almost become "self-parody," Shenazy also commented that "the mystery is worked out with intelligence." A reviewer for Publishers Weekly noted that Crombie sometimes lets personal feelings—for example, "Kincaid's for the widow, James's for the opera, and both for each other"—get in the way of the story; nevertheless, the reviewer wrote that "the solution satisfies." Brad Hooper, a Booklist contributor, dubbed the book a "superbly engrossing whodunit."
Mourn Not Your Dead, published in 1995, takes Kincaid and James to the hamlet of Holmsbury St. Mary to look into the murder of a top police official. They soon discover that the victim, Alastair Gilbert, was highly disliked in the town because of his brutish behavior. The secret bank account of Gilbert's outwardly fragile wife and a jealous coworker passed over for promotion also arouse suspicion. A contributor to Kirkus Reviews called the characters and setting "well drawn, if slightly pro forma." Stasio also complimented Crombie on her "smooth procedural techniques and engaging eccentric characters," and Booklist contributor Stuart Miller cited the novel as "another winner."
More than usual critical praise was given to Dreaming of the Bones, published in 1997. In the New York Times Book Review, Marilyn Stasio deemed it "multi-layered," while a Publishers Weekly contributor asserted that Dreaming of the Bones is "the best book in an already accomplished series." More than just a whodunit, this mystery explores the relationships that entangle Kincaid, James, Kincaid's ex-wife Victoria "Vic" McClellan, and the victim during the unraveling of the story line.
Vic, a professor of literature at Cambridge University, while working on a biography of deceased poet Lydia Brooke, uncovers information that suggests the poet was murdered. When Kincaid and James are called in to investigate, Kincaid again becomes romantically involved with former wife Vic, who is later found murdered. Adding interest to the story is Lydia's fixation on her namesake, poet Rupert Brooke, whose poetry is liberally quoted throughout the book. According to Stasio, Kincaid "must pick his way through these fatal passions, at the same time sorting out his feelings for two fascinating women." The investigators interview a number of Lydia's Cambridge friends, but it is James who actually finds the key to the mystery in a poem written by Lydia.
Anne Dingus in Texas Monthly called Dreaming of the Bones a "moody, compelling tale." A contributor to Publishers Weekly noted that "Crombie excels at investing her mysteries with rich characterization and a sophisticated wash of illuminating feminism." Stasio wrote that the interweaving of relationships in this mystery "[links] them with questions about our responsibilities to the ones we love—on occasion, love to death."
Crombie's 1999 novel, Kissed a Sad Goodbye, takes place on the Isle of Dogs in the Docklands area of London, where the body of beautiful Annabelle Hammond, director of a tea company, is found in a park. Once again, Kincaid and James launch an investigation, looking into the victim's past for answers to her murder. Personal story lines also add to the tension: for example, James's attraction for one of the suspects and Kincaid's discovery that he has a son. An historical flavor is added in the stories of East Enders who as children were evacuated during World War II bombings. Stasio commented in the New York Times Book Review that Crombie makes the Docklands district "a living presence" in the novel, while a Publishers Weekly contributor called Kissed a Sad Goodbye a "complex, thoughtful novel."
Crombie once told CA: "I'm a closet historian and perpetual grad student. I love doing research. The trick is in not getting carried away, not losing sight of the story in a muddle of detail. What the reader gets is usually only the tip of the iceberg. For instance, in Kissed a Sad Goodbye, I had to learn all about the Allied campaigns in Europe and North Africa in order place peripheral characters, as well as learning about the effects of the Blitzes in London and southern England. The history of the tea trade came into it as well—all great fun!"
In her next book, A Finer End, Crombie features Kincaid and James investigating a murder involving architect Jack Montfort and others associated with Glastonbury Abbey, where a twelfth-century massacre took place. Supernatural messages from a monk who witnessed the atrocity to Montfort and other strange occurrences complicate the case and lead to Kincaid and James investigating after one of Kincaid's friends is murdered. "The atmosphere … [is] as thick as the fog around Glastonbury Tor," noted Stephanie Zvirin in a review in Booklist. A Publishers Weekly contributor wrote: "Throughout, the author sustains the sharp sense of a magical history bleeding into the present."
James is now an inspector and pregnant in the next mystery featuring her and Kincaid, titled And Justice There Is None. The couple, with their respective children, move into a new house only to have the young wife of their neighbor, antiques dealer Karl Arrowood, stabbed to death. The woman, who was much younger than her husband, was pregnant either by her husband or her lover, two of several potential suspects in the case. Harriet Klausner, writing on the FunInfo.com Web site, referred to And Justice There Is None as "a delicious mystery with … [a] stunning climax." A Kirkus Reviews contributor noted: "Anglophiles will cheer the sociological evocation of the changing London neighborhood."
Connie Fletcher, writing in Booklist, called the next Kincaid and James mystery, Now You May Weep, "many-layered, deceptively mellow, [and] packing quite a kick." This time, the duo are investigating the murder of a chef, John Innes, who is part of longstanding feud that presents the two investigators with several suspects to sort through. Maryann Miller, writing on the Curled up with a Good Book Web site, noted that the author "works with a deft hand, keeping a nice balance between the main plotlines and subplots."
A serial arsonist and the burned naked corpse of a woman are at the heart of In a Dark House. Although Kincaid and James are investigating the abduction of the two-year-old daughter of a friend, they soon discover that the abduction and the murder are connected. Mike Shea, writing in Texas Monthly, commented that the author's "steady hand drives the story … safely home again."
Water Like a Stone finds Kincaid and James on Christmas holiday at James's sister's house in the country. However, a mummified baby in a barn and the bludgeoning death of a local retired social worker put a halt to the vacation and send the duo off on a new case. "It is an intriguing story, which keeps the reader on edge, especially the hair-raising finish," wrote Theodore Feit in Reviewer's Bookwatch. Booklist contributor Stephanie Zvirin wrote that "the intriguing personal relationships and family dynamics drive this well-crafted, impressive mystery-drama."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, January 15, 1994, Stuart Miller, review of All Shall Be Well, p. 902; February 1, 1995, Brad Hooper, review of Leave the Grave Green, p. 992; May 15, 1996, Stuart Miller, review of Mourn Not Your Dead, p. 1571; September 1, 1997, Stephanie Zvirin, review of Dreaming of the Bones, p. 62; March 1, 1999, Stephanie Zvirin, review of Kissed a Sad Goodbye, p. 1157; March 15, 2001, Stephanie Zvirin, review of A Finer End, p. 1356; August, 2002, Connie Fletcher, review of And Justice There Is None, p. 1930; September 15, 2003, Connie Fletcher, review of Now You May Weep, p. 213; January 1, 2007, Stephanie Zvirin, review of Water Like a Stone, p. 62.
Kirkus Reviews, December 15, 1992, review of A Share in Death, p. 1537; May 1, 1996, review of Mourn Not Your Dead, p. 648; August 1, 2002, review of And Justice There Is None, p. 1077; August 15, 2003, review of Now You May Weep, p. 1047.
Library Journal, April 1, 1999, Rex E. Klett, review of Kissed a Sad Goodbye, p. 132; August, 2002, Michele Leber, review of And Justice There Is None, p. 150; October 1, 2003, Deborah Shippy, review of Now You May Weep, p. 121.
New York Times Book Review, March 21, 1993, Marilyn Stasio, review of A Share in Death, p. 2; July 7, 1996, Marilyn Stasio, review of Mourn Not Your Dead, p. 7; November 9, 1997, Marilyn Stasio, review of Dreaming of the Bones, p. 29; May 23, 1999, Marilyn Stasio, review of Kissed a Sad Goodbye, p. 33; May 20, 2001, review of A Finer End, p. 41.
Publishers Weekly, December 14, 1992, review of A Share in Death, p. 42; December 13, 1993, review of All Shall Be Well, p. 65; January 2, 1995, review of Leave the Grave Green, p. 62; August 4, 1997, review of Dreaming of the Bones, p. 69; March 8, 1999, review of Kissed a Sad Goodbye, p. 50; April 16, 2001, review of A Finer End, p. 47; August 5, 2002, review of And Justice There Is None, p. 55; September 22, 2003, review of Now You May Weep, p. 87; October 4, 2004, review of In a Dark House, p. 74; November 27, 2006, review of Water Like a Stone, p. 34.
Reviewer's Bookwatch, February, 2007, Theodore Feit, review of Water Like a Stone.
Texas Monthly, November, 1997, Anne Dingus, "Briterature," p. 26; October, 2004, Mike Shea, review of In a Dark House, p. 68.
Washington Post Book World, March 19, 1995, Paul Shenazy, review of Leave the Grave Green, p. 11.
Wilson Library Bulletin, January, 1994, Gail Pool, review of All Shall Be Well, pp. 107-108.
Best Reviews,http://thebestreviews.com/ (October 17, 2003), Harriet Klausner, review of Now You May Weep.
Books 'n' Bytes,http://www.booksnbytes.com/ (September 23, 2007), Harriet Klausner, review of A Finer End.
Curled up with a Good Book,http://www.curledup.com/ (September 23, 2007), Maryann Miller, review of Now You May Weep; Shannon I. Bigham, review of Now You May Weep.
Deborah Crombie Home Page,http://www.deborahcrombie.com (September 23, 2007).
Fantastic Fiction,http://www.fantasticfiction.co.uk/ (September 23, 2007), brief biography of author.
FunInfo.com,http://funinfo.com/ (September 14, 2002), Harriet Klausner, review of And Justice There Is None.
Futures Mystery Anthology,http://www.fmam.biz/ (September 23, 2007), Harriet Klausner, review of Water Like a Stone.
Powells.com,http://www.powells.com/ (September 23, 2007), brief biography of author.