A Bitter Feast (Duncan Kincaid & Gemma James #18), by Deborah Crombie

Wow, we’re already at the 18th instalment of this great series. When I picked this book up, I was slightly worried how I would like it, considering that I haven’t exactly had much luck with long-running series this year; the latest Dupin a disappointment almost as badly as the latest Bruno (review here).

Would Deborah Crombie let me down as well? Would she make me wish for Duncan and Gemma, whose exploits I’ve been following for years, to finally ride into the sunset?

The answer, fortunately, is a resounding “NO!”.

Set this time in the Cotswolds – and thus outside Duncan’s and Gemma’s jurisdiction – we find ourselves at Beck House, the summer house of Melody Talbot’s parents, Ivan and Addie. What was planned as a carefree weekend for Duncan, Gemma, Melody and Doug with a charity luncheon turns into something much more sinister when it comes to light that one of the victims of a car accident had already been dead at the time of the collision…

The other victim of said collision is actually Duncan Kincaid himself – fortunately alone in the car at the time. The fact that I just felt compelled to mention he was alone is a strong indicator for one fact: You know you really like a series and its characters when you’re actually truly worrying about what’s going to happen to one of the main characters.

During the entire book which switches perspectives frequently and naturally (meaning you don’t get confused at all!) I was wondering what might happen to Duncan. I was keeping my fingers crossed all the time and worried with Gemma about him.

I’ve always liked her as well and I sympathised even more with her during this book because she constantly has a lot on her plate: She has to organise the kids, has to be a “proper” guest of the Talbots, a friend to several characters in the book and takes part in the investigation with Duncan (both being supported by Melody and Doug, of course!).

It’s not only Gemma, though: Everyone – including even minor character like Kit – get a fair amount of “stage time” and, surprisingly, everyone is actually interesting.

This applies to the local cop, DI Colin Booth as well: Booth, who could have reacted territorially, gladly accepts the help he’s getting from his London colleagues and they, in return, don’t try to take over his investigation. I’m not sure how realistic that actually is but it surely helped with the lively atmosphere.

Booth is smart, down-to-earth and simply very congenial:

“Colin Booth, Gloucester CID. And you are?” Gemma noticed that he hadn’t used his rank, and that in the few moments since he’d arrived he had very unobtrusively loosened the knot in his tie. She was beginning to like Colin Booth.

So did I.

Even the interludes – describing past events in the lives of some major characters – were actually enjoyable and helped understand current events better.

One sentence, early on, reminded me strongly of the entire series and, especially, this book…

Down-to-earth food, and delicious, the sort of thing he’d grown up on in Cheshire.

… which is similarly down-to-earth and delicious.

No, Crombie didn’t let me down and I’m happily awaiting the 19th book!

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