Five years ago, the talented Cambridge poet Lydia Brooks apparently committed suicide. Now Victoria McClellan, is writing a biography about the renowned Lydia. However as she digs deeply into the background of the deceased poet, Vic begins to question whether Lydia actually killed herself or was murdered. She turns to her estranged former spouse, Scotland Yard Superintendent Duncan Kincaid for help.
Crombie's English procedural series featuring Scotland Yard's Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James (Mourn Not Your Dead, 1996, etc.) takes a giant leap forward with this haunting mystery set among Cambridge literary types. Vic McClellan, Duncan's ex-wife and a member of the English faculty at Cambridge, is writing a biography of Lydia Brooke, a Cambridge poet whose death five years earlier was attributed to suicide. Convinced that Lydia didn't kill herself, Vic asks Duncan to look into the poet's death. Estranged from Vic since she left him 12 years ago, Duncan is at first unwilling to help. But Vic's literary evidence and a brief look at the local police records soon convince him and Gemma, who's his lover as well as his partner, that there's something fishy about Lydia's demise. Having reconciled with Vic and been charmed by her son, Kit, Duncan is devastated when she is murdered. Assisted by Gemma, he sets out on a personal crusade to find the killer. Their investigation leads to Lydia's circle of Cambridge friends in the 1960s: Nathan, now on the botany faculty; Darcy, a colleague of Vic's on the English faculty; Daphne, headmistress of a girls' school; and Adam, an Anglican priest. It's Gemma, through close reading of a long-lost poem by Lydia, who uncovers the crucial secret. As Crombie continues to explore Duncan and Gemma's complicated relationship, she adds a deeper resonance in the form of Duncan's feelings for Vic and Kit. This is the best book in an already accomplished series. Crombie excels at investing her mysteries with rich characterization and a sophisticated wash of illuminating feminism.