Dreaming of the Bones is an award-winning British detective novel.

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

The more mysteries and thrillers I read, the more I see that my tastes are sharpening. I’ve always known that the work of certain bestselling authors left me cold—all those blood-drenched descendants of Mickey Spillane who have learned that brutality and violence sell. Oh, and James Patterson, too, because he’s such a hack. (Yes, I know these people sell lots of books. Which is not necessarily a point in their favor.) No, for the most part, my taste runs more to authors who write stories about real people in real situations—stories designed to make me think. Naturally, one of those writers who’s near the top of my list is Deborah Crombie. Her series of Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James novels rarely disappoints me. And one of the best of the lot is Dreaming of the Bones.

An award-winning British detective novel written by a Texan

Ironically, although Deborah Crombie is read in Britain (as well as many other countries), she is a Texan. Somehow, she manages to convey the impression that she is, in fact, British despite only traveling there. She’s alert to the differences in language and cuisine. She projects a deep love for the English countryside, where her novels tend to be set.

Dreaming of the Bones (Duncan Kincaid and Gemma Jones #5 of 20) by Deborah Crombie (1997) 387 pages ★★★★★

Dreaming of the Bones takes place in and near the storied colleges of the University of Cambridge. Most of the principal characters on the local scene are connected in one way or another with the University, many of them with the English literature faculty. One of their number, a celebrated poet named Lydia Brooke, committed suicide five years earlier. A Cambridge don named Victoria McClellan is writing a biography of the poet but comes to believe that the woman did not take her own life. Dr. McClellan, we learn, is Duncan Kincaid’s ex-wife. And she turns to him to look into the matter.

Since this is an English murder mystery, we know that Dr. McClellan is right. What we don’t know at the outset is that Duncan Kincaid’s investigation will soon be forced to broaden as another murder is committed. And we’ll learn that the roots of the story behind both murders are buried far in the past and involve a set of friends who all knew both murder victims. We will also learn a great deal about Kincaid and James and their growing relationship. This award-winning British detective novel deserves all the praise it has received.

This is one of The best police procedurals.

Previously, I’ve read and reviewed seven other novels in this series:

I strongly recommend that you read these books in chronological order. I didn’t, and I regret that. It’s too easy to lose the thread of Kincaid and James’ evolving relationship and their growing family.

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