A beautiful young girl is found dead under a tree in Cornwall Gardens, a fashionable private garden in London’s trendy Notting Hill neighborhood. Why would anyone want to harm 24-year-old nanny Reagan Keating? So begins this well-crafted mystery by author Deborah Crombie, featuring her husband and wife detectives Gemma James and Duncan Kincaid. As Gemma tries to find out who killed the nanny, Duncan becomes enmeshed in possible corruption and murder located deep within his own police department after a brutal attack on his former boss, Detective Superintendent Denis Childs.
The author skillfully interweaves the two investigations with details of the couple’s personal lives: taking children to ballet class, dealing with a parent’s health issues, and a friend’s suicide. Taken together, it makes Crombie’s characters all the more real and complex, even after 17 entries in the series.
This was an entertaining read and kudos to author Crombie, who keeps her long-running series so interesting. The complexity and danger of Duncan’s internal police investigation is leavened by Gemma’s case and her interviews with the endearingly eccentric characters whose homes border the communal garden where the nanny’s body was found. I particularly liked the old busybody Mrs. Armitage, owner of one of only two keys to the garden gate, and hunky landscape designer Clive Glenn, who lets slip that some of the residents might be playing “musical houses,” a hint of naughty goings-on among the seemingly proper owners.
Although I was not familiar with the previous books, enough background was given so I had no trouble following the continuation of the plotlines. And here’s a surprise—this oh-so-British mystery was written by a native Texan.