In the past: It is September 1939 and thousands of children are being evacuated from London. Among them 12-year-olds Lewis Finch and William Hammond, both billeted on the Surrey estate of the formidable Regina Burne-Jones. Both become allies, then friends, and thus begins a story of choice and betrayal the repercussions of which will echo down the years . . .
In the present: Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James are called out to investigate a death in London's East End. A young woman known as Annabelle Hammond has been strangled. Prime suspect is a busker she was seen talking to just before she disappeared. And when he turns out to be Gordon Finch, Duncan decides to investigate events which occurred more than fifty years before.
Scotland Yard detectives Sergeant Gemma James and Superintendent Duncan Kincaid (Dreaming of the Bones, etc.) return to solve a murder committed in the East End of London. On the Isle of Dogs in the Docklands area, a young woman is found dead. Oddly, her corpse has been carefully, even reverently, arranged. The stunningly beautiful victim, Annabelle Hammond, is the director of a family-owned tea company that is headquartered in a historic building nearby. Operating on the premise that Annabelle probably knew her killer, Duncan and Gemma poke around in the victim's past, meanwhile working through problems in their own lives. Duncan has recently learned that his ex-wife (who died in Dreaming of the Bones) left behind an 11-year-old son; now he is discovering how much time and emotion are needed to bring up a child. As previously, Crombie delineates expertly the interactions between lovers Duncan and Gemma, as their relationship continues to evolve. Most notable, though, is her masterful depiction of the history and character of the Docklands: the Isle of Dogs, and its historic cycle of destruction and renewal, provides a strong, atmospheric background to the tale, as the contemporary story is interspersed with accounts of the evacuation of local children (including Annabelle's father) during the bombings of WWII. Although not as emotionally intense as its Edgar-nominated predecessor, this complex, thoughtful novel is another satisfying entry in an exceptional series.