Review: Water Like a Stone by Deborah Crombie

water-like-a-stoneWater Like a Stone
by Deborah Crombie
Series: Duncan Kincaid & Gemma James #11
Genre: Mystery (Procedural)
Published by Harper Collins, 2007
E-book, purchased
532 pages
Grade: A-
Synopsis: When Scotland Yard superintendent Duncan Kincaid takes Gemma, Kit, and Toby for a holiday visit to his family in Cheshire, Gemma is soon entranced with Nantwich’s pretty buildings and the historic winding canal, and young Kit is instantly smitten with his cousin Lally.

But their visit is marred by family tensions exacerbated by the unraveling of Duncan’s sister Juliet’s marriage. And tensions are brought to the breaking point on Christmas Eve with Juliet’s discovery of a mummified infant’s body interred in the wall of an old dairy barn—a tragedy hauntingly echoed by the recent drowning of Peter Llewellyn, a schoolmate of Lally’s.

Meanwhile, on her narrowboat, former social worker Annie Lebow is living a life of self-imposed isolation and preparing for a lonely Christmas, made more troubling by her meeting earlier in the day with the Wains, a traditional boating family whose case precipitated Annie’s leaving her job.

As the police make their inquiries into the infant’s death, Kincaid discovers that life in the lovely market town of his childhood is far from idyllic and that the dreaming reaches of the Shropshire Union Canal hold dark and deadly secrets . . . secrets that may threaten everything and everyone he holds most dear.

She, on the other hand, found it difficult to compartmentalize the different aspects of her life. Even while concentrating on work, some part of her mind would be wondering what sort of day Kincaid was having, and whether there was something in the fridge for the children’s dinner. She’d seen it as a curse, this inability to shut down her emotional radar when she wanted so badly to succeed at her job.

But lately she’d begun to think that the feminine hardwiring of her brain might have its compensations. The personal ones were more obvious–God forbid that she had failed to turn up at Kit’s custody hearing–but there were professional blessings as well.


Hugh had gone up to his study, for “just a few minutes,” Rosemary informed Gemma with a roll of her eyes, adding, “He’s just acquired a rare edition of one of Dicken’s lesser-known Christmas stories, he’ll forget to eat if I don’t remind him. I suppose that sounds rather charming, but in reality it’s quite irritating.”


  • I whizzed through this book. Just couldn’t put it down.
  • I loved reading about Duncan’s family and the Christmas celebrations–even though things don’t turn out as everyone has planned or hoped.
  • I like that Duncan and Gemma and their families aren’t perfect, but Duncan and Gemma are in there trying to do the best they can.
  • The grown-ups all have insecurities–Duncan and Gemma about their relationship; Duncan’s sister and brother-in-law are fighting and heading toward a split; Duncan’s parents worried about their daughter, wanting a special Christmas for their family–especially the grandchildren.
  • The children–especially the teenagers (Kit and his cousin Lally)–are trying to learn how to live with the problems of growing up and sometimes the problems their parents or other adults cause.
  • Kit has nightmares about his mother’s murder. Lally is especially affected by her parents’ fighting and problems.
  • The mystery in this book is well done. Since Duncan’s sister finds a body on Christmas Eve just as Duncan and Gemma and family arrive at his parents, Duncan and Gemma both become involved in the investigation. The mysteries and confusion unfold and kept me guessing about exactly what happened for quite awhile.
  • I love the way Deborah Crombie uses the setting, the countryside around Cheshire in this case, in her books. It’s fascinating to read about Cheshire and the narrow boat canals. I love reading about the history and culture of the canals–how families lived and worked on these canals and how that life has gone away.


  • I’m ready for Duncan and Gemma to move their relationship forward.

And a few thoughts . . .

  • This is one of my favorites of the series so far. I’m ready for the next one, but I’m making myself wait a bit so I don’t run out of books in the series!

Have you read this book? How did you like it?

  • 2015 Goodreads Challenge
  • Cloak & Dagger Mystery Challenge–hosted by Amy @ A Bookish Girl
  • COYER Winter Reading Challenge–hosted by Berls @ Fantasy is More Fun and Michelle @ Because Reading (e-book–$1.99)

Author: Jan

I love to read--especially mysteries, science fiction and fantasy. I also love blogging, photography, gardening, playing Mah Jonng, reading with a cat on my lap, throwing a ball for a dog, creating cards to send to family and friends, reading book blogs, using my computer.

4 thoughts on “Review: Water Like a Stone by Deborah Crombie”

  1. Oh I loved this one! I’m so glad you did as well. Gemma and Duncan’s relationship definitely gets frustrating for a reader but I guess that’s fairly realistic? I’m more patient with real life people than I am with characters!


    1. I’m glad to hear you loved this one, too, Katherine. I agree I’m much more patient in real life than with characters I read about!


  2. Wonderful review, Jan. I’m so behind in this series, and I really love it… I need to catch up. Well, three of the books are on my Top of the Hoard “must read in 2015” personal challenge list, so hopefully I’ll make a dent.


    1. Thanks, Lark! I hope you get some of these books read this year. I know how hard it can be to fit in everything we want to read.


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