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IN A DARK HOUSE
By Deborah Crombie
Avon Books. 2006, c.2004. Paperback. ($7.50)
Reviewed by Shirley H. Wetzel
Rose Kearney, a fire fighter stationed at the historic Southwark Station of the London Fire Brigade, loves her job. She's bright and ambitious, working hard to prove herself in what is still essentially a man's world. She gets on well with her partner, Bryan Simms, but there are some in the brigade who would be happy to see her fail. When she gives her opinion that a deadly fire in a nearby warehouse is suspicious, she is told to keep her ideas to herself, but as similar fires begin to take a chilling pattern she is determined to uncover the truth and stop the arsonist before all of London is in flames.
Detective Gemma James and her live-in love Duncan Kincaid get involved when the badly burned body of a female is found in the warehouse. The woman was apparently murdered, her clothing and any other identifying material taken away. There are several candidates for the victim, including a wealthy businessman's daughter, a hospital administrator, and the companion of a handicapped woman whose minister is Gemma's friend Winifred Montfort. The daughter of one of the missing women is also missing, and Gemma, who'd been unable to find a six-yea- old in a recent case, pulls out all the stops to save this one.
Gemma and Duncan must find a way to work together on the case while dealing with the problems inherent in a blended family. Duncan's late wife's parents are threatening to seek custody of his teenage son Kit, and this is putting a strain on all involved. Gemma is still grieving for the baby she recently miscarried, and this loss is affecting her both personally and professionally.
Crombie includes fascinating tidbits of London history, particularly the many disastrous fires that have plagued the city since its inception. The inner workings of the London Fire Brigade is enlightening, and makes one appreciate the difficult and dangerous job of a firefighter. Her characters continue to evolve, and I continue to care what happens to them.
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