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Necessary As Blood    by Deborah Crombie order for
Necessary As Blood
by Deborah Crombie
Order:  USA  Can
William Morrow, 2009 (2009)
Hardcover, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

It's hard to believe that Deborah Crombie is from Texas, since she writes her Anglophile mysteries starring Scotland Yard detectives Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James to the manor born - or in the case of her latest, Necessary As Blood, just like an East Ender.

At this stage in their careers and personal lives, Duncan and Gemma are living together (along with their two sons from previous marriages) but not (normally) working together. They plan to get married, but the logistics (and her family's continual suggestions and queries about wedding plans) are a huge stress on Gemma, as is her mother's failing health.

The mystery begins one morning when artist Sandra Gilles leaves her young daughter Charlotte with an old friend at the Columbia Road Flower Market just for a few minutes - and is never heard from again. Months later Sandra's husband, Pakistani lawyer Naz Malik, is murdered.

Gemma (and her subordinate Melody Talbot) are pulled into what ultimately becomes Duncan's case through her best friend. Hazel has been living apart from her husband Tim Cavendish and small daughter Holly after being unfaithful to Tim in Now May You Weep. Tim was called in by his friend Naz's nanny Alia, who is caring for small Charlotte. Gemma is enchanted by Charlotte and worries about her future.

In the meantime, Duncan and his sergeant Doug Cullen (who rather resents Gemma's involvement) search for a motivation for Naz's murder. They uncover all kinds of leads - and as Duncan muses 'seem to be accumulating missing persons at an alarming rate' - though most have nothing to do with the lawyer's death. But their most promising avenue for investigation is blocked by a big Narcotics undercover op.

Of course all these puzzles are resolved in the end, including that of Gemma's wedding plans. It's a delightful series - a seamless combination of cozy and police procedural that works very well. I look forward to spending time with Gemma and Duncan - as well as their retinue of friends, family and associates - again soon.

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