Tuesday, February 7, 2017


A huge congratulations to Jungle Red's own Deborah Crombie!  Today marks the release of the 17th (!!) installment in her critically acclaimed Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James series.  I had the pleasure of reading the book, and it's fantastic.  Readers old and new will not be disappointed; as the Minneapolis Star Tribune says "betrayal, sacrifice, and forgiveness.  It's all here."

The Reds posed some questions to Deb, but first, here's a brief synopsis to get you up to speed:

On a beautiful morning in mid-May, the body of a young woman is found in one of Notting Hill’s private gardens. To passersby, the pretty girl in the white dress looks as if she’s sleeping. But Reagan Keating has been murdered, and the lead detective turns to Gemma James for help. Gemma has a personal connection to the case: Reagan was the nanny of a child who attends the same dance studio as Toby, Gemma and Kincaid’s son.
Gemma soon discovers that Reagan's death is not the first tragedy in the exclusive London park, and when still another of the garden's residents meets with violence, it becomes clear that there are more sinister forces at play.

While his wife is consumed with her new case, Kincaid finds himself plagued by disturbing questions about several previous—and seemingly unrelated—cases involving members of the force. If his suspicions are correct and the crimes are linked, are his family and friends in mortal danger as well? Kincaid’s hunch turns to certainty when a Metropolitan Police officer close to him is brutally attacked. There’s a traitor in the ranks, and now Kincaid wonders if he can trust anyone.

As Gemma begins to see a solution to her case, she realizes she holds a child’s fate in her hands. Can she do the right thing? And can Kincaid rely on his friends, both inside and outside the Yard, to stand beside him as he faces the deadliest challenge of his career?

On to the questions!

HALLIE EPHRON: Debs, this one grabbed me by the throat, really. Your characters are real and sympathetic, so much so that when they're in danger I really feel for them. This book is really complex. It's got (at least!) three separate plots swirling around one another, all of them exploring trust. Do you write them separately or alternate, the way it lays out in the novel? And do they all come to you at once?

DEBORAH CROMBIE: Hallie, this book gave me a headache, I have to say. (A long headache!) I started out with a very rough idea, then did my usual outline/story-boarding. I eventually ended up outlining three separate timelines because I had to make sure that all the pieces of the puzzle fit together in the right order. The actual writing I did pretty much in the sequence it appears in the book. And of course things changed from the outline a good bit along the way. For instance, I had no idea when I started Denis Childs' backstory exactly what had happened to him in the past. But I was very aware that all the stories dealt with trust in one way or another.

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: We know you do a lot of on-site research in England (lucky you!) to get the details of Duncan and Gemma's world right. Where did you go and what did you explore to get the real feel of Notting Hill?

DEBS: Julia, I've stayed in flats in Notting Hill for extended periods over the years, and no matter where I'm staying, I always spend time there. And I ALWAYS go to Portobello Market on Saturdays. I have a huge sentimental attachment to the market. I suppose it sort of embodies London for me. I usually try to visit all of Duncan's and Gemma's usual spots, too, and in this case I peeked into as many private gardens as I could!

JENN MCKINLAY: This series has had a special place in my heart, like its setting Notting Hill, since the very first book. Because I adore Gemma and Duncan, I have to ask what have been some of the challenges of writing about two lead characters, both detectives, who are married with children? Also, have you ever considered killing either of them off (please say no or lie to me)?

DEBS: I was told that if I married off my characters, it would kill the series. Boy, did that make me nervous. But, I thought it would be really tiresome to put Gemma and Duncan in a perpetual will they/won't they situation, and I've always tried to be more true to real life than that. And I thought that a married couple with their jobs and a family would present endlessly interesting and dramatic possibilities. I think that's been true so far, and it has certainly been fun for me to write about.

And, no, don't worry dear Jenn! I have no intention of doing away with any of my major characters. I couldn't bear it.

HALLIE EPHRON: One of my favorite characters is Jess, a boy who's an aspiring dancer. He felt so authentic, I have to ask is he based on anyone?

DEBS: I have a good friend whose middle son was the inspiration for both Toby and Jess, at least in part. He was a very active and very athletic kid without much impulse control. When he was about Jess's age (Jess is almost eleven in the book) he visited a ballet class and he was instantly hooked. He went on to become a very talented and accomplished dancer, although he eventually had to give it up due to knee problems. It's a punishing discipline, and it takes great dedication to achieve success. I think I'm always fascinated by people who are driven to do something difficult.

LUCY BURDETTE: Debs, I have not finished and I refuse to rush through! But  really admiring your seamless transitions between Point of View characters. But that's a more technical discussion--maybe Hallie can lead us through us one day? I'll ask this instead...the title GARDEN OF LAMENTATIONS is so fabulous and elegant. And then as I read, I notice that everyone is gardening! So I wonder, did the title come first and then you worked the gardens in, or, were you writing about all these gardens and their meaning for each character and the story, and the title followed?

DEBS: Lucy, that is so funny. That's the first time it's ever even occurred to me that everyone is gardening! It must have been subliminal... And I'm not even sure I could tell you now where the title came from. I don't want to make the book sound gloomy, but for me the all the intertwined stories were permeated with a sense of loss, and "lamentations" seemed to echo that.

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN:  I must know--How do you juggle all the characters' lives? Do you have a timeline,  or a history, or an incredible list of lists? There are so many wonderful puzzle pieces that you put together so beautifully… What is your thought process and procedure for doing that?

DEBS: Oh, heavens. I do have timelines and lists of characters and scads of notes. The viewpoint thing is especially tricky, to keep from repeating information when you are seeing roughly the same situation from different characters' perspectives. And trying to make the different timelines end up at the same place! But I want it to be seamless for readers, so that they are just carried along and don't think about those things--at least until the end.

HANK: And before I knew you, I really expected you were British! And even when we first met, I was so surprised that you did not have a British accent.  How does your brain work? How do you switch on "American "when you come back home?

DEBS: It's a very weird thing, and something I don't really have answer for. I've not only lived in England and Scotland and spent a lot of time there over the years, but I've read British books as long as I can remember (and watched British TV as long as we've been getting it in the US.)  So my brain just clicks over to British voice, and I'm not really conscious of it. Split personality! Or maybe Jekyll and Hyde!

If it's a gift, I'm very grateful for it, because it's given me an enormous amount of joy over the years.

INGRID THOFT:  Gemma and Duncan were navigating some difficult terrain in their relationship this time around, because of professional and family demands.  Did you enjoy writing that tension or do you prefer when it’s smooth sailing on the home front?

DEBS: I did enjoy writing it.  I think the fact that everyonenot just Duncan and Gemma, but Duncan and Doug, Gemma and Melody, and Melody and Dougwere all at cross purposes through most of the book really increased the story tension.  That said, for the next book, I want to put everyone together, working on the same case!

INGRID: I love the supporting characters in the series, and this time around, Doug and Melody played important roles.  Have you ever considered doing a spin-off with your secondary characters?

DEBS: I ADORE writing about Doug and Melody.  And it has been suggested to me that I write a spin-off series with them, but I really like the dynamic of all the characters together.  And as slow as I am, I don't thinking writing more than one series is on my horizon.  Especially as this book was original 650 pages in manuscript...

What do you say readers?  Any questions for Debs on the new release?


(And if you want to ask her in person, click here for her tour schedule!)

Deborah Crombie is a native Texan who has lived in both England and Scotland.  She lives in McKinney, Texas, sharing a house that is more than one hundred years old with her husband, three cats, and two German shepards.


  1. Happy book birthday, Debs!

    I really enjoyed this book; like Hallie, the character of Jess and his love for dancing was a particular favorite for me.
    I enjoyed the interplay between the present and the unfolding information from the long-ago undercover assignment. When you were writing, did you write the entire undercover story and then separate it into sections or did you write each section as it came up in the story?

  2. I am so excited for this book, Debs. One of these days I want to try my hand writing more than one point view. About Jess, I am reminded of that delightful British movie about a boy from I think a mining town who only wants to dance, I can't remember the name of it. Was that a spark of inspiration for this boy? I think I am going to miss you on tour this year, unfortunately, but look forward to our next meeting. Best of luck with this book!

  3. Can't wait! Happy book birthday!!!

  4. Such a terrific book! Hooray hooray hooray

  5. I loved this book! Wish you were coming to Boston. Lucky fans in Seattle, SF, Palm Beach, Phoenix... and more.

  6. Happy Book Birthday, Deb. As you know, I loved the book. Can you talk a bit about the challenges of writing an extended storyline that crosses over multiple books. So much of what comes to fruition in GARDEN was planted in earlier books.

  7. Debs,

    Happy Book Birthday! Look forward to reading your new book. One of the things that I love about your books is the map. It gives me a visual image of where places are in London.

    I have two questions.

    Was Reagan named after the American president Ronald Reagan or is Reagan a family name? I am surprised that an English person would be named Reagan.

    If it is ok to ask, will one of your characters in a future book have Meniere's disease?

  8. Congratulations! So excited that my copy arrived in my Kindle this morning! I just reread your last so I would be up to date. However, I am going to read my March book group book first and save GARDEN OF LAMENTATIONS as a reward. Thank you.

  9. Guess what I am going to do today! I was up at three ayem checking my Kindle and read only the first page. There was a long wait for this one, sort of like a very delayed Christmas, but now the time has come for book/chair day in front of the fire.

  10. Hooray!! Congratulations on book pub day and the terrific reviews! 650 pages in the first draft? You must be exhausted after all that work! I was glad to hear that you wrote it as it came to you--no separate stories written then somehow cobbled together. It seems more organic to me as a writer. It's not a plot device--do you know what I mean? Our ordinary lives are filled day to day with multiple plot-lines (just not necessarily murder, although sometimes lots of mayhem!!).

    Can't wait to read it!!

  11. Oh, so glad that the book is available! On my weekly pilgrimage to the bookstore I will be sure to get my own copy.

    As someone else said, I love the maps in your books.

    Thank you SO much for not dragging out the will they/won't they. It's enough to make me lose interest in a series (or TV program, and I buy the DVDs of programs I like.) It's juvenile, in my opinion. I feel that marrying the main characters to each other offers the possibility of many more storylines.

    I'm home with a nasty cold, and am thinking of escaping to the bookstore for a few minutes...

    Deb Romano

  12. Happy Book Birthday, Debs! I am relishing the idea of catching up on Gemma and Duncan again.

    Three plot lines! I bow to your talent, dear.

  13. Happy book birthday! I loved all the garden pictures on Facebook. I've been intending to read this series straight through, but the description/title/pictures have been so enticing I might have to jump in.


  14. Happy Book Birthday, my friend!!!!

    As one who was lucky enough to receive an early copy, I have to say - it's all the things the reviews are saying, and more.

    I'm all about characters and Gemma & Duncan, along with their friends, co-workers and family have always, from Book One, been characters easily related to. I love their depth and honest portrayal.

    As Kristopher said, so much of the series story line has been leading up to this book - this story. It was well worth the wait.

    Debs - you have every reason to sit back and smile today. You have made your fans quite happy, and when they finish reading GARDEN OF LAMENTATIONS they'll be smiling too. Thank You!

    p.s. - I'm so proud of you.

  15. Congratulations, Debs! Sorry I didn't add my question but I've been stuck in John's hospital room all week and not really able to concentrate on snything else
    I know the book will be as warmly received as the others

  16. Rhys, thoughts and prayers for you and John for his speedy recovery . . . .

  17. Happy Book Release Day! I already have Garden of Lamentations on my Kindle and cannot wait to start it! Isn't this the book that has a character like Annie in Being Human in it? Like Roberta, I'm sure I will read it slowly to savor the story. Being a native Texas from Dallas, I'm trying to picture you living in McKinney (wow, has that town grown), and writing about England, but I'm glad that you do! I was actually listening to Jerry Jeff Walker singing London Homesick Blues the other day and wondered "How could you possible get homesick in London?!"

    Edith, was the movie you were thinking about Billy Elliott?

    Again, Happy Book Birthday and congratulations!

  18. Fantastic book, Debs. I loved it. Also, I am so very relieved at your answer to my question. Thank you! Best of luck on the book tour. I hope you are taking in lots and lots of room serve. Honestly, that's my favorite part of touring.

  19. Happy book birthday, Debs! Can't wait to read it!

  20. I finished this book in a couple of days, and it would have been faster, but life kept interrupting! I loved it. I'm always amazed that Debs isn't English; her ear for British English and appreciation for the nuances of life in England is truly remarkable.

    I second Jenn's room service suggestion. Definitely one of the perks of touring!

  21. Hi all! I am just back from doing morning TV in Dallas (Thanks, Good Morning Texas!) which was huge fun, although I am not nearly as polished and glam on TV as our Hank:-)

    Thanks for all the great questions, everyone.

    Edith, the film about the boy from the mining community who takes up ballet is Billy Elliott. I didn't see it until after I'd decided that Toby was going to take ballet and I had started thinking about Jess. But the film was very inspirational, and then I got to see the stage production in London before it closed its long run. That performance was the last by Elliott Hannah, who was so terrific as Billy. And Celia, thanks for answering this for me.

    Celia, oh, I see what you mean about Annie in Being Human. The actress who played Annie is named Lenora Critchlow. She is fabulous, and she was an inspiration for Annette, both in her looks and in her family history. Lenora's father was a well-known and respected black activist in Notting Hill.

  22. Kristopher, the extended story line was murder:-) I never meant to do it, honestly. But I knew the story was there, in the beneath-the-surface part of No Mark Upon Her, and I knew that Denis Childs had a very good reason for his actions. Then I couldn't NOT write it. That plot intertwined with what I had started to learn about Special Branch undercover operations, and then THAT plot intertwined with the story of the murder of Stephen Lawrence and its aftermath.

    There were many times I could have kicked myself for ever having started something that I couldn't finish off in one book. This book was, I think, my biggest challenge since Dreaming of the Bones, and I'm glad now that I stuck with it. But big sigh of relief when it was finally finished and I hoped it all made sense! It was very difficult trying to not reveal too much about the earlier books for new readers, and I am still not sure I pulled that off.

  23. Joan, I blocked out a good bit of the undercover story (set in 1994) in my outlining, but I actually wrote the scenes in the order that they appear in the book. I do occasionally write out of sequence, but especially in this case it was so important that the action flowed from the back story to the current story.

    Writing the back story was actually my favorite part of writing this book. And I loved looking back at 1994. It's seems like ancient history now:-)

  24. Eagerly awaiting a virtual trip to England! Your richly populated and complex books reward the reader with clarity . . . despite complexities it all does make sense -- genius! It's even clear in the audio versions, a tribute to the talents of writer and performer as well. Thanks for the hard work and headaches to make it happen, and please continue. I love the people! <3

  25. bib-li-o-phile, I honestly don't know where Reagan's name from. It seemed appropriate for a young woman in her early twenties, and it's a good English family name. I never even thought about the former president.

    I don't know that I will write a character that specifically has Meniere's, but Kieran in No Mark Upon Her suffers from terrible vertigo from a head injury combined with PTSD. That's probably as close to channeling my own challenges as I want to come.

  26. Deb, feel better! There is no better cure for a cold than a good book:-)

    Rhys, you have had your hands full. Much love and wishing John a very speedy recovery.

  27. Jenn and Ingrid, I LOVE room service on book tour. It is the best. I'm in a very nice hotel in downtown Dallas, as I had TV here this morning, then a signing in Dallas tonight before flying out to Seattle in the morning. I'm staying in the room most of the day, doing promo (and hoping for a nap!) and am contemplating the artisan cheese tray with fresh fruit for afternoon tea before I head out to my evening event.

  28. Congratulations, Deb! And, can I just say that I'm excited you'll be visiting Portland. :-) Seems like most authors I'd like to say "hi" to hit Seattle and then the SF/Bay Area, skipping Portland. I'm going to try to make it (Mom care might trump book fun though). And I'll try to think of an interesting question.

  29. I cannot wait to read this book - I've been thinking about the plot since you spoke about it at B'con more than a year ago. I expect it will be a sensational success - congratulations!

  30. Happy Book Birthday, Debs! I think you could tell by my review how much I loved Garden of Lamentations, especially impressed with your deft handling of the multiple story lines. Duncan and Gemma and their patchwork family of his, hers, and ours is one of the best parts of this series, so I am glad that you decided to have them marry. I remember asking you at Raleigh Bouchercon, where I first met you, if Duncan and Gemma were going to have a baby together, and you asked me if I thought that was really necessary. While at that time, I was in favor of an offspring produced by both of them, I can now say without any doubts that I think their family is perfect just the way it is.

    And, the supporting characters are magnificent. Doug and Melody add so much to the stories, and in this case, provide Duncan with the only people he can truly trust in the police department. One of my favorite aspects of your characters is how you add in characters from past stories as the series continues, such as Andy and Hazel. It was good to see Hazel again in Garden of Lamentations and see what was going on with her.

  31. Congratulations Deb! As you know, I was a huge fan of yours even before stumbling upon Jungle Reds. Can't wait to read this one. (Though I actually am going to wait until the weekend, I think, to start it. Otherwise how will I discipline myself to daily duties?)

    Mary Sutton, my unsolicited advice is to hold off and read the series from the beginning. Each book is wonderful, but some of the pleasant plot twists and unexpected developments might not come through as well if you have already seen the "today" version of their world. And even though I haven't yet read this one, from all the descriptions it seems especially dependent on the books that came before.

  32. Susan, I was afraid you'd say that. I've been temporarily barred from purchasing more books (so says The Hubby) both for cost and lack of shelf-space. :(

  33. Congratulations on the new book! I can't wait to read it. I have loved all the Duncan and Gemma books, and one of my particular favorites was Dreaming of the Bones. The separate plots and going back to 1994 will be really fun to read. I very much look forward to it!

    Mary, as someone who introduced a friend to Duncan and Gemma books by starting her on No Mark Upon Her, I don't think you have to start with the first book to enjoy this new one. My friend devoured No Mark Upon Her and then went back and started with book 1.

  34. Congrats, Debs! I know there will be bookstore doors flinging open all across America today as eager readers rush in for GARDEN OF LAMENTATIONS!

  35. Mazel tov, Deborah!

    If Future You should choose to do any sidebar sorts of books-- one whose focus is less on Duncan and Gemma and more on Melody and Doug-- I'll be first in line! I adore all of them, have for ages, but Melody and Doug are like those people you haven't spent quite enough time with to know as well as you'd like.

    And actually, I think that goes for all the Reds with long-running series! You've written such an amazing recurring/supporting cast for each of them.

  36. I have already started on both the ebook and the audiobook. I'm only on Chapter 2 but I am looking forward to learning more about Denis Childs. I haven't been so excited about a new book since Harry Potter! Thank you, Deborah, for creating such wonderful characters. I will be visiting England and Scotland this spring and will try to visit a couple of spots that you have mentioned in your books. On my last visit we stayed near Notting Hill and always used Notting Hill Gate tube station. I would love to have time to explore that area more.

  37. Mary Sutton, they are all available as e-books if you read that format. But of course, I would say, just buy the new book!!!! If you like it you can read backwards. Or go back to No Mark Upon Her and start there.

  38. Thank you, Kathy Reel! I'm glad we agree now--at least for the time being--about the baby issue:-) Just watching how busy my one-year-old granddaughter keeps my daughter, I don't know how Gemma would manage a baby AND solve mysteries, lol.

    Thanks, Julia!

    And Jennifer!

    And Teri, that is such a compliment! Thank you so much, and I hope the book is worth the wait.

  39. Congratulations! My book should be waiting for me when I get home and I can't wait to start the jiurney

  40. Ooo, ooo, ooo! I do read ebook. And starting with NO MARK UPON HER they aren't even that expensive! Score!

  41. So happy for you and your wonderful book reviews! I'm sorry I couldn't catch you at Murder by the Book. Our town is still settling down from Superbowl craziness.

  42. I am so excited to start this book! I am a huge fan and just finished reading or listening to them all in preparation for this book. There was so much left undone at the end of your last book I can't wait to see how it will all play out.?Gemma and Duncan are such great characters and their world has so many interesting folks inhabiting it. But my very favorite character right now is Charlotte. Your descriptions of her are so so visual I just want to give her a hug. As a parent of tow other race children I know the challenges they face .
    My question is this. ... I remember the character Wren in " The Sound of Broken Glass", and now looking at the map in this book I see Wren Street. I know your gorgeous little granddaughter is named Wren. Are they all related? Did the real Wren come before the book Wren?

  43. Oh, Barb! Brilliant! Love to hear this answer...

    And it is such a joy to read these comments...you all are wonderful!