Deborah Crombie’s A Killing Of Innocents is the latest in her Duncan Kincade and Gemma Jones series. Starting with the description of a few events and then the discovery of a dead woman, our leads are quickly called into the case due to the early involvement of Duncan and the signs of a stabbing by knife which connects to the special unit his wife Gemma is in.
Husband and wife detective stories are nothing new. Indeed this very series is nearly up to 20 volumes with no end in sight. At the same time the status of the couple as both looking into this killing gives them a clear connection and allows for a much more personal point of view between the pair. The police are generally depicted positively in the book, clearly due in no small part to the status of both leads as employed by the organization. This is less problematic in a volume dealing strictly with a homicide then it might be in others, and police procedure is generally realistic or believable.
The facts of the case are revealed at a slow but steady clip, and the ways in which information, testimony or forensic, is uncovered remain believable and situationally appropriate. Multiple segments pull away to individuals who are not the detectives having discussions. These very obviously take place more or less contemporary with the story elsewhere, right down to the death of Sasha Johnson by knife wound. An experienced mystery reader may actually be thrown slightly by these as they combine with testimony given early in the story to make certain suspicions arise fairly quickly. On the other hand even when one is correct about the identity of the killer much of the rest of the investigation remains intriguing, and the moment of reveal is gripping and effective.
Themes of marriage family and responsibility are surprisingly well woven into the book. While often the personal subplots for the detectives in a long-running series novel are not closely related to the mystery at hand, in this particular volume they very much tie directly to the mystery itself. This is not to say that the case interacts with them in a way more than causing considerations by the leads, but rather that it reinforces the theming extremely effectively.
That said the pair’s at home conflicts , while understandable and sympathetic, are not exceptionally high stakes. Indeed their debate about hiring live in help to deal with the children, and the arguable class implications of this, might feel insulting to certain readers. While a two police salary family could likely afford at least part-time if not full-time child care, the idea that this would leave them still feeling working class is a little odd.
Overall this is another solid entry in the series, and a fairly good example of Deborah Crombie’s work. While not having the most unusual or novel murder in the series, the investigation remains intriguing and interesting. Fans of the series would definitely do well to read it, and while new readers might do better to start at a different volume they will not be lost picking it up on a whim.
(William Morrow 2023)