Row Your Boat

scullI read a review of Deborah Crombie’s “No Mark Upon Her,” and immediately ordered it for my daughter, and then read it myself.  The mystery centers around the murder of an Olympic caliber rower, who is found dead on the Thames after going out one evening in her single scull.  My daughter is a college rower and the “crew culture” is an interesting phenomenon; I was wondering how Crombie would capture it in her work.  The verdict–she did an excellent job not only illustrating the cultish devotion of rowers to the sport and their clubs, in this case the prestigious Leander Club, but also made the world of the small villages where the story is set come alive.  According to the author’s bio, she is a native Texan, who has lived in both England and Scotland…and that surprised me.  The story, set in the area of Henley-on-Thames, seems to be an area with which she is comfortable and very familiar.  Her characters are real and fully formed–none are just place holders necessary to advance the plot.  I especially liked the character Kieran Connolly, an Iraqi war vet with PTSD, who was trying to put his life back together by refurbishing boats and working with his dog, Finn, on a search and rescue team.  The plot is involved and keeps even the most astute mystery reader guessing to the end.  If you like British mysteries, quirky characters, and a setting which makes you want to visit there, Crombie’s work is for you.  My one, tiny criticism is one I have mentioned before: since she has introduced her main characters in previous works and developed a whole back story for them, I was a bit lost and bogged down at the very beginning, because I was unfamiliar with them.  If you feel the same, just keep going, it’s worth it…or, as they say on my daughter’s  crew team: “Keep calm and row on!”

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Row Your Boat

  1. Faith Johnson

    Lisa,
    I ordered “No Mark Upon Her” from the U.S. Army Library in Heidelberg after reading your review and just finished it this weekend. I thoroughly enjoyed it. The glimpses into the world of rowing were fascinating. Having no background in it myself, I’m glad to hear you found it accurate. Crombie’s descriptions of the locations were spot on, and made me homesick for England.(I’ve never been to the Leander Club, but I’ve been along the Thames at various points, and the descriptions of pubs, etc. could fit any number that I’ve visited. I’ve even stayed in a Hotel du Vin, one of the places she mentioned several times. The information on how dogs are trained and used in search and rescue work was also really interesting.

    Regarding the characters, the back stories were also a mystery to me, but I persevered as you recommended. Having enjoyed this book so much, I think I’ll go back and pick up some of the earlier ones. In addition to the character that you pointed out, Kieran Connolly, I really liked several of the “regulars,” including Gemma and Melody. And I really want to know the story of how Gemma and Duncan Kincaid came to be fostering Charlotte.

    Thank you for pointing out this book. – Faith

    • Faith, Thanks so much for your gracious comments on this book review and so glad that you felt my observations were confirmed; that I did not lead you astray. It is nice to know that the author captured the area so realistically, especially since her use of locale is almost like another character…makes we wonder, too, what her other books are like. Worth a try!

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