Rebecca Meredith had almost made it into the Olympic games when she was young and her body did easily what it was told to do. At 35, it took so much more effort to get herself back to the condition that she had taken for granted. But determination counts for something and Becca is determined. Her biggest obstacle is the lack of time necessary for training. As she rows, she comes to a decision. She will resign from her job and devout herself to making the team, not for a medal but for the accomplishment it will represent.
Kieran Connolly and his dog, Finn. are members of the Thames Valley Search and Research Team. Kieran is a veteran of the war in Iraq and has suffered a devastating injury, no less serious because it is invisible. The damage to his inner ear has altered his equilibrium and has stolen some of his hearing. With a medical discharge and a pension, Kieran has returned to the banks of the Thames in Henley to set up home in a boat shed. He isn’t inclined to spend time in social settings but he has a gift for fixing and building boats. Business earns him enough to live as he wishes.
Freddie Atterton is Becca’s ex-husband and they have remained good friends. Freddie becomes concerned when he sees signs that Becca should be around but no one has seen her since the day before. Freddie contacts her boss who tells him Becca hasn’t come to work and has missed a very important meeting.
Superintendent Duncan Kincaid is given the task of learning what has happened to Detective Chief Inspector Rebecca Meredith. The police in the area are sent out in force to search for her but it is Kieran and Finn who find her in the river. Death is not an accident; Becca has been murdered. Duncan’s wife, Detective Inspector Gemma James, is assigned her own sensitive case, one that may connect to Duncan’s. The internal politics may cost Gemma and Duncan their jobs.
As they investigate their separate threads, they enter a world understood only by a select few. Oxford and Cambridge Universities contain worlds within those worlds and nothing is ever forgotten. A mistake lives on forever but an accomplishment forgives all sins.
The murder and the mystery are built upon the world of competitive rowing. The author provides the reader with enough information about the sport so that we can understand the emotions that drive the competitors. She also offers us examples of the baser motives of greed and ego that drive people to decisions so that a name can be added to a plaque.
The Henley Regatta is an event that takes place yearly over the course of five days in early July. The course is a mile long. I am familiar with the American version, the Head of the Charles Regatta. Like the race at Henley, the Boston race is a “head” race because the winner is first over the finish line. (I’ll insert a bit of sacrilege here: the winner is a head of everyone else). The course on the Charles is 3.2 miles long, every bit of it in sight of the cities of Boston and Cambridge. Unlike the Henley Regatta, the Head of the Charles course is not straight and crews have to navigate past six bridges. The race is conducted over two days. Anyone planning to tour the Boston area the weekend of the race should rethink their plan. The first race rook place in 1965. Today there are approximately 9000 athletes in nearly 1800 boats. Besides the crews, the coaches, and the support staff, more than 300,000 spectators come to watch. There are over 50 events and there a races for different age groups. Colleges and universities provide a majority of the crews but businesses are also sending teams and the race is becoming increasingly international.
All of the numbers are secondary to the beauty of sculling. Unless the Charles is frozen, the crews can be seen training almost year round. The river ties Boston College to Harvard to Boston University to Northeastern so spectators can watch the sculls to life.as the crews train. The sculls are beautiful and graceful and Deborah Crombie shows that commitment to excellence is necessary to bring that beauty and grace to life. The drive to win at any cost brings the story into the real world.
This is the fourteenth book in the Duncan Kincaid/Gemma James series. I have read and they are so consistently good that I have no doubt that I will be ready to plunge into the next one as soon as it is placed on the shelves.