Two dead bodies, investment fraud, and the life along Cheshire’s canals

Water Like a Stone explores life along Cheshire's canals.

It’s Christmastime in Cheshire, and the Duncan Kincaid-Gemma James household is relocating from London to visit his parents and his younger sister. 13-year-old Kit (Duncan’s son) and 5-year-old Toby (hers) and the boys’ two dogs are off to the countryside. There, they’ll meet Hugh and Rosemary Kincaid, their daughter Juliet Newcombe, her husband Caspar, and their two children, 14-year-old Lally and 10-year-old Sam. But if that sounds like an idyllic family Christmas, guess again.


Water Like a Stone (Gemma James and Duncan Kincaid #11) by Deborah Crombie (2007) 532 pages

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As it turns out, the family’s innocent trip to the idyllic pastures of Cheshire leads Gemma and Duncan into a thicket of surprises. These include:

  • Two dead bodies;
  • A collapsing marriage in the family;
  • A case of investment fraud;
  • Their older son’s infatuation with his cousin; and
  • An introduction to the unique boating culture of the canals that crisscross Cheshire.

Life along Cheshire’s canals

Water Like a Stone is set in a small community near the shore of one of Cheshire’s famous old canals. There, a dwindling number of people live on “narrowboats” (7 feet wide by 58 or 70 feet long). People on two of those boats become deeply involved in both cases. Crombie writes with skill and sensitivity about the traditions of the boat people. However, like so much of her other work, this novel dwells as much on the dynamics of Gemma and Duncan’s relationship with each other and with their children—and their interaction with the members of his family. Her characters are all eminently believable. And the mystery would keep anyone guessing until the end.

About the author

Although she writes English mystery stories like the best of them, Deborah Crombie is a Texan. Water Like a Stone is the 11th in her series of Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James novels, now 17-strong. Her 1997 entry in the series, Dreaming of the Bones (#5), was the New York Times Book of the Year.

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