The Sound of Broken Glass, the 15th entry in Deborah Crombie’s popular series featuring Det. Inspector James and Det. Superintendent Kincaid, often flashes back to the seedy Crystal Palace neighborhood in southeast London. The area once boasted the famous Crystal Palace building, a huge glass exhibition hall reconstructed from its famous Hyde Park original in 1854, but then burned to the ground in a spectacular fire in 1936. The novel builds its core from the memories of those who once inhabited the neighborhood and had heard of the spectacular building, and the recurring theme of lives as fragile as glass weaves its way throughout Crombie’s new Gemma James/Duncan Kincaid mystery novel.

Broken Glass picks up the pieces of several interlocking stories from the past, all of which seem to have their genesis in the Crystal Palace neighborhood. Years earlier, Andy, a lonely but musically talented adolescent boy who’s often beset by older neighborhood bullies, befriends Nadine, a young widow. Tragedy and a mysterious betrayal appear to cause an end to the friendship, and Nadine disappears from the neighborhood.

In the present day, Andy, now beginning to make a name for himself as a rock guitarist, seems to be connected to the grisly death of a barrister. The victim confronted Andy during a performance just prior to the murder, which took place a bit later in a derelict hotel. When a second, similar murder of a barrister occurs, Scotland Yard takes up the trail in earnest.

Gemma and Duncan, now married, alternate childcare responsibilities, with Gemma currently at Scotland Yard while Duncan stays home on childcare leave. Gemma and her young assistant, Det. Sergeant Melody Talbot, seek to determine the tragic circumstances that bind Andy’s past and present in bonds that seem unbreakable. Duncan joins the sleuthing when he realizes that the young guitarist figured into a former case.

Those familiar with Crombie’s earlier novels will be pleased that this entry matches her previous books in suspense and writing prowess. Newcomers to the series will find a welcome backlog of previous James/Kincaid novels to whet their appetite after discovering this fine novel.

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