Books

Who killed the girl in the garden?

Garden of Lamentations. Deborah Crombie. Morrow. 414 pages. $26.99.
Garden of Lamentations. Deborah Crombie. Morrow. 414 pages. $26.99.

Deborah Crombie writes about a chaotic home life mixed with equally chaotic careers to create a well-rounded depiction of her longtime characters Det. Supt. Duncan Kincaid and Det. Insp. Gemma James, a married couple who put family first without sacrificing their jobs.

Crombie’s high standards shine in “Garden of Lamentations,” which explores two insular communities — homes surrounding a private garden in the Notting Hill area of London and a police squad.

Gemma’s case takes her to a community of homes that surround a locked garden where one of the residents finds the body of Reagan Keating, nanny to an aspiring ballet dancer. Residents have access to the garden through their back doors, but only two people hold the key to the outside gate. Gemma also has a personal connection to the case: Reagan’s young charge attends the same dance studio as does her son.

Meanwhile, Duncan is being confronted with corruption within the police force uncovered after a severe attack puts his former boss into a coma.

“Garden of Lamentations” moves at a brisk pace with acute attention to the details of both cases. The domestic scenes of Duncan and Gemma realistically show the pressures of a working couple for whom life is a constant juggling of family and work.

The American-born Crombie has a fine eye for the details of London, its neighborhoods and the inner workings of its police force. “Garden of Lamentations” is a strong addition to an excellent series.

Serge is back

Tampa author Tim Dorsey has taken what is essentially a one-joke plot and delivered it through what is now his 20th novel, “Clownfish Blues.”

Think about it: 20 years of writing about Serge A. Storms, a serial killer whose targets are those who defy, desecrate or disrespect his beloved Florida. Dorsey’s comic novels traverse the state from the Panhandle to the Keys as the author lovingly showcases Florida and why Serge is so enraptured with the Sunshine State.

In “Clownfish Blues,” Serge sets off to recreate the TV show “Route 66” with his stoner buddy, Coleman, who may have, at one time, had a last name, but no one, not even he, can remember it. Yes, Serge knows “Route 66” is not located anywhere near Florida, but he also knows that several episodes of that 1960s series were actually filmed in the state, and that’s good enough for him.

But this is Serge, and his brand of heroism has a way of turning into havoc. So Serge and Coleman get their kicks on their version of Route 66. They try worm-grunting in Apalachicola and get caught up in a lottery scam. They also get mistaken for hostage negotiators.

As usual, Dorsey’s plot, such as it is, falls apart in the middle. But “Clownfish Blues” is all about the jokes, and they come fast and furious — another road show for which Dorsey may one day find a Florida link.

Oline H. Cogdill reviewed these books for the Sun Sentinel.

If You Go

Who: Deborah Crombie

Where: Murder on the Beach, 273 Pineapple Grove Way, Delray Beach

When: 7 p.m. Feb. 27

Info: www.murderonthebeach.com

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