England · review

Necessary as Blood by Deborah Crombie

Necessary as Blood by Deborah Crombie

William Morrow, 2009

Gemma James and Duncan Kincaid book 13

Source: library

I’ve hit a bit of a reading slump in the last few months so I decided to read more in one of my favorite series, but, unfortunately, as readable as Necessary as Blood was, I feel a little unsettled by it.  The James and Kincaid series is written by an American about police couple in London.  It’s very procedural but sort of cozy (not all the books take place in the city, the author is very fond of maps in the frontispieces of her books to map out her characters’ investigations), and, frankly, one of the main reasons I return to the series is to find out what’s happening in James and Kincaid’s personal lives.  It’s been a drawn-out relationship over 13 books.

So what exactly is leaving me unsettled?  The opening of the book makes it fairly clear that the central mystery will involve human trafficking between Bangladesh and London, but the bulk of the book does not get to that point.  The opening introduces the character of Sandra Gilles, a fiber artist who lives in the East End who somehow follows missing Bangladeshi girls before she herself disappears.  The bulk of the book involves the police investigation into both her disappearance and her husband’s subsequent murder as well as the latest troubles in James’s personal life.   The last section of the book, however, that uncovers the human trafficking plot, feels like a very different story than the rest of the book.  I guess I’m unsettled because the tone varies so sharply between the horrors of human trafficking versus the domestic and investigative drama in the story.  I guess I expect a crime novel dealing with human trafficking to be more unsettling and to realize how high the stakes are.  If Crombie hadn’t tipped her hands so clearly in the opening section of the book, I still would have been weirded out by the abrupt shift in tone in the book at the end.

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4 thoughts on “Necessary as Blood by Deborah Crombie

  1. Rebecca – I like the James/Kincaid series too, and I know what you mean about wanting to follow along in their lives. I’m sorry to hear that you were pulled out of this one though by the juxtaposition of the different plots. You’re quite right that when a plot deals with something really serious such as human trafficking, it’s most effective if it explores that issue in a really focussed way.

    1. Margot, I still liked this book, but it’s definitely not my favorite in the series. I’m happy to be so close to catching up on the series. That doesn’t happen for me very often!

  2. I really liked this series at the start, but went off it after the first four or so books, as it just did not seem a real depiction of Britain, to me (the one set in the Scottish distillary was the one that ended it for me). So I haven’t read this one, so can only comment to the effect that any theme such as this one needs to be treated with sensitivity. I’ve sometimes read books in which children trafficking was treated almost as entertainment – justification for violent, action-packed thriller (which does not seem to be the case here of course) – and I don’t continue with those books. It can be done well, eg one of Peter James’s Roy Grace books, but even better, by Simon Lewis in Bad Traffic (not children, but very well done even so).

    1. I’ll keep those titles in mind, Maxine, when I feel up for another child trafficking plot. It will happen sometime. I understand the lack of authenticity turning you off from the series. I can’t stand books with totally inauthentic legal maneuverings. I didn’t practice criminal law, and it still bothers me.

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