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It's Christmas Eve and Superintendent Duncan Kincaid is taking his family to stay with his parents in Cheshire for the holiday period. The holiday doesn't get off to a good start, as Duncan's sister Juliet discovers the body of a baby in an old dairy farm she is renovating.
Else where Ex Social worker Annie Lebow is getting ready for another lonely Christmas on her Narrowboat.
While it's not Kincaids case, he finds it impossible not to get involved. As if helping to solve the case wasn't enough, Kincaid's relationship with his sister is still very much strained and he's having trouble bonding with Kit who he's only just found out is his son.
I have read quite a few crime novels lately, and while some have lost my interest in the first few chapters I'm pleased to say I found this one very hard to put down indeed.
Deborah Crombie has a wonderful way of hooking you into the story in just the very first sentences, and while even though it was very late into the night I was desperate to learn the fates of all the characters concerned. The story flows along at a steady pace, and each chapter ending in such away that you can't stop to you've read the next and the next, get the picture?
I can honestly say that while reading this novel, I couldn't find a single thing to fault about it. While some readers may feel that Crombie is over descriptive at times, I found that to be in her favour and didn't feel she over did it in the slightest. Books for me are away of escaping from the day to day hustle and bustle of life, and this one is perfect for doing so. Many a time I felt as if I was in the book myself, as I could smell the food on the table at Christmas and feel the chill of the winter's air.
I felt Crombie got the balance just right between the investigations and the home lives of the characters. Without going into too much detail there's strained relationships between many of the characters, and I was equally as interested to find out how they'd work out as I was to find out who dunnit.
At first I was a little concerned about the numbers of characters being brought in, as I find with Agatha Christies novels that I get very confused as to who's who. I needed have worried however as each one is developed (some of course more than others) enough that I never had to flick back through to reacquaint myself with any of them.
Finally the best thing of all for me is the fact that even though the clues were all there, I had know idea who were responsible for the crimes until the very end. It's been far too easy to work out who the bad guys are in some novels I've read, but I liked the fact that I had to piece together the clues along with the Police and was very shocked when all was revealed.
While I should note that this book is the eleventh in the series of the Kincaid/James novels, I certainly didn't feel that I was missing out on not reading the others in the series first. While undoubtedly reading them in order would provide more background information on the characters, I didn't find this lack of knowledge a problem.
So to sum up I'd say that this is a crime novel not to be missed, and I for one will certainly be seeking out more of Crombie's books.