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Newly promoted Detective Inspector Gemma James is starting a new job in Notting Hill. Her private life is also changing as she moves across London and into a new rented flat in the same area with her boyfriend Duncan Kincaid and their children from previous relationships. She has to cope with new work responsibilities such as managing a resentful older male subordinate, at the same time as wondering how to tell her superiors that she's expecting a baby.
Soon she finds herself investigating a murder, hardly the ideal way to meet your new neighbours. The victim, Dawn Arrowood, the wife of a successful businessman, was killed on her doorstep. There seem to be quite a few potential suspects including husband Karl, and a lover, Alex Dunn, who runs an antiques stall in Portobello Market, but it proves hard to find evidence to substantiate a case for the most obvious theories. Then Duncan Kincaid notices parallels between Gemma's case and one of his, and starts pursuing his own line of investigation.
Interwoven with the present day investigation scenes is a subplot strand set some years before, about a young woman known as Angel, and I enjoyed gradually piecing together where this fitted in and trying to work out how this would be brought together with the findings of the police investigation. I found the narrative easy enough to follow although some readers might find the pages of italics irritating.
In And Justice There is None we are introduced to quite a cast of interesting characters, and I hope some of them turn up again in future books. I enjoyed the mixture of professional and personal lives and of different storylines coming together, as the story behind the crime goes back some years.
I also liked the method that the author uses to show the contradictory aspects of her setting, the interesting character that draws people to live there with some of the darker aspects of inner city life. Each chapter is prefaced with a paragraph from a non-fiction work about Notting Hill in the Sixties by Charlie Phillips and Mike Phillips. This reminds us that Notting Hill is not just the yuppie district shown in the film named after the area but a multiracial area with a mixture of poverty and wealth. I have to confess though that I have only ever visited Notting Hill, whereas an American friend who owns a flat there and spends a few weeks a year there found this book disappointing in its portrayal of the area and the antiques trade.
This is the eighth book in a series that I have enjoyed reading from the beginning, and that now runs to 14 novels. It does have to take up a number of threads which come as surprise revelations in earlier books to an in-sequence reader, and there are also some series spoilers in character and relationship developments. I do think a new reader to Crombie's books could enjoy this one independently of the earlier ones. If you really want to start earlier, pick up the first, A Share in Death, the second, All Shall Be Well or Dreaming of the Bones, the fifth and my favourite so far for its literary setting and plot. The character development for the main characters is perhaps a bit limited here for a new reader to the series, as the author may be expecting readers to have prior knowledge of Duncan and Gemma from her other books.
I am usually wary of American writers who set their work in Britain, and Deborah Crombie hails from Texas. She did live in London for a number of years though, and for me she writes about real places where believable people live. Gemma even lived in Leyton for a couple of books at the beginning of the series, a part of east London I suspect few tourists would visit or recognise.
I recommend this book and others in the series to fans of quite traditional police detective stories, but also as a change of pace for those who often prefer faster grittier books.
UK Pan Paperback edition 448 pages
£6.99 cover price, available from amazon.co.uk at £4.19 (February 2011)