Water Like a Stone by Deborah Crombie

May 22, 2007 at 5:24 pm (Anglophilia, Book review, The British police procedural)

I recently read Water Like a Stone by Deborah Crombie, and while I enjoyed it in general, I had some reservations. First of all, at 400 pages, it was simply too long. The plot became attenuated, and it became increasingly difficult for the reader – this reader, anyhow – to stay invested in the murder investigation (two murders, actually). On the other hand, the leisurely pace allows for in depth character development, a quality that I know is prized by fans of this series of procedurals. Crombie’s prose is quite fine; she is exceptionally good at writing dialog. She limns adolescents in a completely convincing way. This is not an easy as the flood of young adult fiction currently on the market would have you believe.

Beside the appealing characters, the major element that this novel has going for it is the setting: Cheshire, England, the childhood home of series protagonist DCI Duncan Kincaid of New Scotland Yard. This is an area of “the old country” that I know nothing about; I had to consult a map to pin down its location. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cheshire

There is much lore about canals and canal boats, also called narrow boats, that was genuinely fascinating. I was not aware, for instance, that there exists a means whereby these boats navigate from one side of a river to another while suspended more than a hundred feet above the river valley! The structure that allows them to perform this seemingly impossible feat is called the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct; it carried the Llangollen Canal over the River Dee. http://preview.tinyurl.com/5geg5 When I first read about this, I thought I could not possibly be understanding the set-up correctly. The aqueduct is rightly recognized as an engineering marvel.


England, to me, is like Dr. Who’s Tardis: it seems so much bigger on the inside than on the outside. How can such a tiny island be so full of treasures? Can one ever truly know them?


  1. Carrie said,

    I do love books set in England. After a short trip over there myself, I have to agree with you in asking how one tiny island can be so full of treasures! Thanks for your review.

  2. Framed said,

    I haven’t read a Duncan Kincaid mystery for ages. But 400 pages does seem a bit lengthy. Still, it would be fun to revisit these characters. Thanks for the review.

  3. Reason to rejoice: a bumper crop of British procedurals « Books to the Ceiling said,

    […] Deborah Crombie: Where Memories Lie (Gemma James and Duncan Kincaid). June 24 […]

  4. Hooked on Books: The National Book Festival, September 29, 2007 « Books to the Ceiling said,

    […] there I sat feeling very much her kindred spirit in that respect! (I reviewed her latest novel, Water Like a Stone, several months ago.) [Photo: Deborah Crombie with her presenter, Patrick Anderson of the […]

  5. Books to talk about – a personal view « Books to the Ceiling said,

    […] The Birthday Present – Barbara Vine Seven Lies – James Lasdun Once a Biker – Peter Turnbull Water Like a Stone – Deborah Crombie Christine Falls – Benjamin Black The Tinderbox – Jo Bannister Raven Black […]

  6. Ann said,

    Thanks for the review. I have just recently started reading Deborah Crombie’s books and as I grew up in London have enjoyed a little nostalgia along with brilliant and nicely flowing writing. I am planning to work my way through the series.

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