Thursday, July 29, 2021

Even Fictional Kids Grow Up

DEBORAH CROMBIE: I've never been much for rereading my own books (hence a few embarrassing continuity errors!) except for picking through bits here and there to refresh my memory of a particular event or character.  But I recently picked up DREAMING OF THE BONES (Kincaid/James#5), wondering how it had held up, and I must say it was a treat!

(How I loved this original cover, with the poet Rupert Brooke and the clock set at ten to three, as in his famous poem.)


One of the things I especially enjoyed was reading the scene where we meet Kit, Duncan's son, for the first time. Of course at this point in the story, Duncan doesn't yet know that Kit is his son. Here is our first glimpse of Kit, from Gemma's viewpoint, as she and Duncan arrive at Duncan's ex-wife's cottage in Grantchester:

Then the door flew back with a crash, and Gemma found herself staring down into the inquisitive blue eyes of a boy with a shock of straw-colored hair flopping on his forehead and a faint dusting of freckles across his nose. He wore a faded rugby shirt several sizes too large, jeans, and the dirtiest white socks she's ever seen. In  his right hand, he held a slice of bread spread with Marmite.

"Um, you must be Kit," said Kincaid. "I'm Duncan and this is Gemma. We're here to see your mum."

"Oh, yeah. Hullo." the boy smiled, a toothy grin that won Gemma instantly, then took an enormous bite of his bread and said through it, "You'd better come in."

Kit was eleven here. Now we are FOURTEEN books later, and much has happened in all the character's lives. Kit is fifteen! He lives with Duncan and Gemma and their two younger children (Toby and Charlotte) in Notting Hill, and he's working part time in his friend Otto's cafe just off Portobello Market. 

In this snippet from a scene in the book in progress, Kincaid has stopped on his way home to check on Kit at the Elgin Crescent cafe:

Reaching Otto’s, he glanced in the window. The small cafe was busy and Kit, wearing a white apron over his jeans and white shirt, was clearing tables.

Kincaid gazed through the glass. He was, he realized with a shock, seeing his son as a stranger would. When had his lost boy become so grown up? Kit looked so self-assured and confident, balancing stacks of plates and chatting to the patrons with a friendly smile. He looked, in fact, not like a boy at all, but like a young man, and a handsome one at that. One young woman’s gaze followed him appreciatively as he disappeared through the door leading down to the kitchen.

Kincaid felt suddenly as if he were trespassing, and that going into the café now would be intruding on his son’s newly adult—and separate—life.

Shaken, he walked on a pace and sent a text instead, saying he was passing if Kit was ready to go home. The answer was swift.

Helping Otto until closing. You go on.

Well, that was him put in his place. Kincaid felt an uncomfortable sense of loss. But a moment later, his mobile dinged again.

But thanks. See you later, okay? the message read, followed by a row of smiling emojis.

Reassured, he walked on, his step lighter.

You can see Duncan is having some separation issues! As am I, but I can't stop time entirely for my characters, even though I've slowed it down. I keep spacing my book timelines closer together to keep the kids from growing out of the series!

REDS AND READERS, do you like seeing the progress of families through the course of a series? What are some of your favorites?

 

77 comments:

  1. I can’t wait to read this newest book! I do enjoy following families and watching them change and grow. Although It seems Kit is becoming an adult too fast I felt the same about my own children. Most of the series I read do not have children although there are growing families in Louise Penny’s Three Pine books and in Elly Griffiths Ruth Galloway series.

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    1. Great examples, Ann. I've loved watching Ruth Galloway's Kate grow. She's a great character.

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  2. This was my favorite book in your series, Debs. A real tour de force. Now you’ve made me want to go back and read it again. And Molly Murphy’s ward Bridie has grown from five to thirteen!

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    1. I was thinking about Bridie, Rhys, and of course Molly's little Liam. But you've done a great job of not having your characters age too fast.

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    1. I have to check Molly Murphy now too.. Waiting anxiously for Deborah's new one

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  4. I've always enjoyed seeing the growth of a family through a series and I'm happy that Kit isn't growing up too fast!

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  5. I do like seeing characters age and relationships grow and mature. I understand why it can be tricky for an author, however. Sometimes, it's the age that is magic, and when they grow up, it's hard to capture that again.

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    1. Good point, Mark. I hope Kit hasn't grown out of the magic age!

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  6. I love this, Gemma, I mean, Debs (I seriously didn't mean to type Gemma, but it kind of delighted me when I did). I remember reading that earlier scene.

    I followed the growth of the children in Katherine Hall Page's Faith series for years and loved how Faith could integrate being an amateur sleuth with being a mother. I have recently married off all three of my sleuths (well, two are in books coming out soon and next year). And if kids come along for them, so be it! I'll make it work. Your books are a great role model for that.

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    1. Katherine's books are a great example, Edith. And I can't wait to see what you have in store for your characters!

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  7. I love it when the characters grow and change from book to book. I do enjoy reading about Kit, Toby and his ballet, and Charlotte. Margaret Maron's Deborah Knott series was a good one for this. I thought after the first book that Deborah and Dwight should be married, and I enjoyed watching their relationship develop. They did finally marry. And Deborah's relationship with her stepson was a pleasure to read too. It used to be with mytery series that things that happened in one book didn't carry over to the next one. This is much better.

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    1. I agree, Maureen. I love seeing characters change and progress. It would be interesting to talk about where this trend in series novels started. Dorothy Sayers allowed Peter and Harriet to eventually marry, and then in a final story, they have children.

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    2. I like seeing families and characters grow and much prefer the continuity of this to the stand-alone mysteries.

      Ngaio Marsh also allowed Roderick Alleyn and Agatha Troy to marry and have a son, although I don't think Ricky appeared in a lot of books. Now I will have to reread them and refresh my memory.

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    3. Albert and Amanda Campion have a son too - Rupert. He's in several books and eventually as an adult in graduate school.

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  8. I like seeing families grow in a series. It's like you were there at the beginning and continue to root for them.

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  9. Debs, I love Dreaming of the Bones. It is one of my favorites. (Just listened to the Audible about 2 months ago.) It's interesting that you haven't reread your books because your plots are intricate and your cast of recurring characters is pretty deep. AND, your books are really good!

    Kit is one of the most compelling characters ever. From the very beginning, you have shared his point of view. He is smart, kind, responsible and intelligent. He is a rare teenager. I think his fans (your readers) are looking at him in the same way as Kincaid, saying, "Don't grow up too fast!" I love the snippet and look forward to the next book!

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    1. Judy, I've now read through Kissed a Sad Goodbye, too. There are so many little plot and relationship details I'd forgotten!

      I think that in general, we don't give teenagers enough credit. But Kit is very special to me.

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  10. Oh Debs, you know how I love this book, the only one of yours I've read three times now. Most of the others I've read only twice. I've watched Toby grow from a very small boy, almost a toddler, to a precious schoolboy. I remember, in one of our first conversations, telling you I had a little dog named Toby, and we agreed it was a special name indeed.

    Your books have the double pleasure of being a great series yet each one also able to stand alone. Thank you for treating us all to your wonderful characters and settings.

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    1. Yes, Toby was barely two in the first book. Toby and Kit have been my vicarious boys, since I only have one daughter and one granddaughter. I'm always glad when readers who've raised boys enjoy these two.

      (And Ann, you are the best!)

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  11. Yes, to seeing families grow and change, along with kids and other relationships. And now I'm thinking back to many different mystery series, and wondering about the influence of women mystery authors. Nero Wolfe's relationships barely changed over time, and I can't, offhand, think of a series written by a man in which the characters had much in the way of life arcs.

    One of the joys of reading long-running series is seeing the friend/family dynamics change. Georgie and her crew, Duncan and Gemma, Hayley and her wacky cast, Clare and Russ's new little one. My favorite aspect of Faye Kellerman's Rina and Peter books is how they blended their yours/mine/ours family over time.

    Debs, my grandson changed so much through the pandemic when we didn't see him often, and I kept having to readjust my approach to him while we were together. Now that he's 16 he is busing tables four days a week at a busy restaurant. Your description of Kit reminds me so much of my daughter's observations of seeing him at work!

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    1. Have you read any of William Kent Krueger's Cork O'Connor series? His kids have grown up in the series and are often integral to the mystery. You should check it out if you haven't. It is one of my favorite series.

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    2. I loved your photos of your grandson, Karen. And how fun that he and Kit are about the same age.

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    3. Karen, that's such an interesting point about male authors not giving their characters life arcs. But some do. I'm a big fan of Ben Aaronovitch's Rivers of London series. He's let Peter Grant grow into a relationship, and now Peter and Beverly are expecting twins! (This should be interesting, seeing as Beverly happens to be a river goddess!) Another series I read by a male author has just had his characters decide to marry, and get pregnant. I'm sure there are more examples.

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    4. Recent ones, though, right? I can't think of older mysteries with male authors that had the same kind of family development. I've been wracking my brain to think of any that are newer than the last 40-50 years.

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    5. Dorothy Sayers, and to a lesser extent, the Tommy & Tuppence mysteries, come to mind as perhaps early examples.

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  12. Debs, can't wait for this book! It reminds me that I don't have very many child characters in my books. I do have older characters, which poses a different problem!

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  13. Gemma's kids are great! Love catching up with them. Kit has so many options and I'm sure, will falter once or twice before he finds his way.

    I write about a blended family with two 14 year olds and three standard poodles. I'll slowly age kids and dogs.

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    1. Margaret, I must read your books! I adore standard poodles!

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  14. Progress through a series of any kind is always good as long as it doesn't go so fast that you wonder how any older people in the story are still alive.

    And while it isn't a mystery series, my favorite example of the consistent march of time would be Lynn Johnston's For Better Or For Worse comic strip series. It ran for 29 years or so and everyone featured in the story aged. The parents got older, the kids got older and started their own families, the dog died, the grandparents died and you even had a later in life kid join the fray and grow from a swaddled bundle of 2 am feedings to a high schooler.

    I have said before that I was so close with the Patterson family that sometimes it felt like I was closer to them than my actual family.

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    1. And now they are re-running them!

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    2. They've been repeating the strips for years now so I haven't really kept up where they are in the run in the newspapers. However, Lynn Johnston has been putting out FOR BETTER OR FOR WORSE: THE COMPLETE LIBRARY editions for the entire series through comic publisher IDW Publishing. So far 5 volumes have been published.

      They cover about 3 years or so in each volume and the books are fully annotated with notes and stories about the strips and the inspiration behind different storylines or individual strips throughout each volume.

      I've been buying them so I've been able to read the series from the very start once again. It's a fantastic strip and I love re-living my time with the Pattersons.

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  15. One of the best things about series books is how we get to see the characters grow and change! Because kids really do grow up so fast I can see your difficulty with wanting to present them at the correct stage of development but not letting them outgrow the family, which happens so often with family TV shows. I'm glad you can slow down time a little bit, Debs. "Your" kids can take their time growing up.

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    1. I think this has been one of the big issues with selling the series to television. You can't put bricks on child actors heads!

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  16. What fun to contrast our first glimpse of Kit to Duncan's view of him in the upcoming book. I think Kit got a lot of his teenage struggles out of the way as he blended in with Duncan's family and pushed back against his grandmother's efforts to raise him. Now he seems to be discovering himself in interesting new ways. He's always loved biology, but with 'A Bitter Feast' he got more interested in professional cooking. Who knows what he might discover next?

    So, to answer your question, I love it when characters grow and change over the course of a series. Their lives always take such interesting turns. I think Karen may have it right, that female authors brought the ability to grow and change into the story arcs of mystery series.

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    1. I think you have it exactly right, Gigi. Kit went through so much in those early books. He's had to grow up in ways that haven't left much room for teenage angst. But he has his own issues.

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  17. I too can't wait to read your next book. Dreaming in the Bones was among my favorite of yours. I love reading about the evolution of families in series, all of those mentioned by others. I'm currently reading Graham Hurley's Joe Faraday series, set in Portsmouth, and I think that Joe's evolving relationship with his son is very well portrayed. I also think of Ann Cleeves' Vera books where her family is essentially her workmates, and how her relationships with them play out as the series continues, and especially the most recent book, The Darkest Evening, where her own childhood relationships with the family at the center of the mystery is depicted. That book is all about family relationships. Please keep your books coming! Yours are among a handful of authors that I buy sight unseen and invariably enjoy.

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    1. I haven't read Graham Hurley but am now going to look them up! And I do agree about Ann Cleeves, and I loved learning about her relationships with her family in The Darkest Evening. Such a good book.

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  18. What a wonderful mirror image of then and now. Love it. As for the progression of characters in a series. Yes, absolutely. Makes me feel part of the fictional family.

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  19. Oh, I have felt exactly as Duncan feels in this excerpt. So very proud and yet suddenly bereft. And then they text "love u" and all is well again.

    One of the great joys of your books, Deborah, is the complexity and honesty of your characters and the fullness of their lives. So delighted that we've got another one to look forward to!

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    1. Thank you, Amy! And glad to know I captured the experience.

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  20. I looooove this book in your series, Deborah, and I am going to pull it off my shelf to re-read now. Kit is a favourite of mine and I am hoping for good things for him as he enters young adulthood. He is real to me in my mind. I never like to lose a beloved character from a favourite series, so please don't have Kit move too far away!

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    1. He's got a few more years at home, thank goodness! And then it will be interesting to see where life takes him.

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  21. I do like to see progress in the life of families in a series, especially yours, Debs. I feel so close to Jemma’s and Duncan’s family and loved ones.

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  22. Oh, this is incredibly wonderful! SO touching and sweet, and you are right, what a treat.
    DO you sense differences in your writing style and choices, though, looking back? xx

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    1. That's an interesting question, Hank, and something I've wondered about. If I manage to reread all the way up to the book in progress, I might be able to answer it...

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  23. What an interesting dilema about aging (or not) characters in your books.
    I'll be thinking about this today.

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  24. So nice to read of Kit then and now thank you Debs. I enjoy the character growth in series more than solving the puzzle. I echo Kait, I feel like I am part of a fictional family. I worried about Toby's high energy in his pre school years. I am go glad you found an outlet for him that was athletic and artistic at the same time. Now, like others, Dreaming of the Bones is back on my TBR pile.

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  25. I definitely like to follow along as families change. We all get so invested in the characters! Ashley Weaver (Amory Ames & Milo)has added a baby to the mix, as has Anna Lee Huber (Lady Darby). We've watched Jimmy Perez become a father to his fiancee's daughter over the course of the Shetland books. Andrea Penrose has added a pair of street urchins, aka the weasels, to her Wrexford and Sloane series which has added dimensions to the main characters' lives.

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    1. That storyline was one of the things I liked most about the Shetland books.

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  26. I enjoyed seeing the difference in Kit aged 11 and age 15, Debs. It's always struck me how four or five years in the life of an adult can roll by with no significant changes, but in the life of a child that period of time is a total transformation.

    One of the best series concerning families is Kent Krueger's Cork O'Conner novels. In the course of the last seventeen, his children have gone from being elementary school age and preteens to young adults; one is married, one is an adoptive parent, and the youngest, Stephen, is helping his father with search and rescue and studying to be an Ojibwe Midewiwin. The series has always been about family, rather than just Cork, its putative protagonist, and by allowing the children to age, Kent has been able to use them as centerpoint characters in some of the more recent books.

    It's an interesting contrast to the more common "take time as slowly as possible" approach.

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    1. I got behind on Kent's books and really need to catch up and see what Cork's family is up to. It is a really different and interesting approach.

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  27. Sorry I am late to the party again. I was up late last night reading a new thriller. The story was very gripping and very long (85 chapters). Now I have a literary hangover.

    Debs, I loved your Duncan and Gemma novel with the 2012 Olympics. I am so bad at remembering titles. Is the fellow on the cover of your book in today's post a photo of Rupert Brooke?

    To answer your question, it does not really matter to me if the character stays the same age or if they grow up. I always enjoy a well written novel.

    Question: Do you have Character Files when you write your novels? I find myself taking notes when I read novels so that I can remember which characters are which.

    Diana

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    1. Diana, the Olympic book (although I never actually say it's 2012:-)) is No Mark Upon Her. And yes, the photo on the Dreaming of the Bones cover is of Rupert Brooke. I LOVED that cover. It was the first one where I had any design influence, and still one of my favorite.

      And I am terrible at keeping character files, obviously. But I may be better now that I write in Scrivener, because it gives me a place to put those things.

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    2. Debs, thanks! The Olympic book was published in 2012? I kept on thinking it was 2012 because I think that was the year it was published?

      Looking forward to reading your next Gemma and Duncan novel. I think of that actress from Rebus as Gemma.

      Siana

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  28. Oh, I loved seeing Kit at the beginning and now. He's such a great character and so good to the younger kids. In fact, I just love their blended family, how much they care for one another. I'm sure Duncan wishes he'd known about Kit before Kit was eleven. And, Gemma and Kit have such a wonderful bond. I remember asking you one time, Debs, if Gemma and Duncan were going to have a child that was biologically both of them, and you answered, "Do you really think they need to?" I can now say with absolute certainty that no, I don't think they need to. The family is perfect just the way it is.

    And, in answer to you questions of liking to see the progress of a family in a series. Yes, I do, and the family of Duncan and Gemma is my favorite family to follow.

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    1. Oh, thank you, Kathy! That means a lot! I might reconsider about the baby before Gemma gets too old! But I would really hate to sideline her with an infant. It would take some thinking.

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  29. Oh, I loved this, Debs. I've been living Duncan's separation with my own two lately so it is very poignant, indeed. Can't wait to read what happens to the James-Kincaid crew next!

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    1. I wondered if that would resonate with you, Jenn. Of course you see it with girls, too, but somehow that separation seems more poignant with boys.

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  30. Yes, Deb, I so enjoy watching my favorite fictional "families" progress through the years! Besides some already mentioned, I like Cara Black's addition of a bebe, along with Susan Wittig Albert's China Bayles series, with the blended family growing up a bit! That's life, and adds to new adventures!

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    1. Oh, I love Aimee's bebe! I love being reminded of some of these series, and getting recommendations for those I haven't read!

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  31. I have just loved Kit’s arc in your books, especially when I have reread the series. Knowing what’s to come makes those early scenes even more special! Your character growth is one of many reasons why I love reading your books, Deborah!

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    1. Thank you so much! I'm finding the rereading very interesting, especially the character arcs for the kids.

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  32. I love seeing the progression of families, especially kids. I know from my own two how fast everything changes, so it's nice to be able to see the process without the stress. LOL

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  33. I do love watching them grow and learn and find themselves, especially when, as here, there have been rough patches. It's a bit like adding to my own extended family. One also gets to know the main characters better by seeing them interact with their families.

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  34. Yes, I enjoy seeing the characters change and grow. I like romance and kids although that isn't needed in every series. EJ Copperman and Miranda James are male authors who wrote family development in some of their series. Looking forward to the new book.

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  35. Ms Crombie took the time in A Bitter Feast to remind readers on how few years have passed in this series. I'm so glad she did, I think I have been reading this wonderful series for over twenty years and I really needed the reminder of the years in Gemma/Duncan land.

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  36. Such a great post! I love watching Kit, Toby, and Charlotte grow up. And while I don't want Kit to grow up too fast, I think his being a teenager brings interesting dimensions to the series. I'm torn in my own series between enjoying how the children change and can interact with the mystery more as they get older and enjoying that I can slow time down with them as one can't in real life. When I wrote "The Berkeley Square Affair" my daughter Mélanie and my fictional Jessica Rannoch were both babies. Mélanie turned one while I was writing the book just as Jessica does in the book. Now Mélanie is 9 1/2 and Jessica is not quite four :-.

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  37. I've also gotten a lot of pleasure out of watching Duncan and Gemma handle parenting and the three kids interact with each other. And while we're on the subject of families in mysteries, don't forget Guido Brunetti's kids growing up in Donna Leon's series. That family has great discussions over meals that often give Brunetti ideas about his cases.

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  38. Thanks folks for reminding me of Margaret Maron's books.. I just downlaoded 2.

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