In Deborah Crombie's "Where Memories Lie," Superintendant Duncan Kincaid and Detective Inspector Gemma James have settled into domestic tranquility with their sons from former relationships, thirteen-year-old Kit and five-year-old Toby. Kincaid works in Scotland Yard and Gemma is stationed in Notting Hill. Although they are no longer professional partners, they still depend on one another for advice and support. Gemma's friend, Erika Rosenthal, is a retired academic who left Berlin with her husband, David, at the beginning of World War II. One evening, Erika asks Gemma to come over to discuss an important matter. It seems that an Art Deco brooch made of diamonds set in platinum has surfaced and is about to be auctioned off at a house called Harrowby's. Erika's late father, Jakob Goldshtein, was a master jewelry maker who created this exquisite item in 1938 and gave it to his daughter. It was stolen from her fifty years ago under tragic circumstances and she never expected to see it again. Erika asks Gemma to find out how a British auction house managed to acquire Jakob's masterpiece. Gemma agrees to make inquiries, not realizing that her visit to Harrowby's will set off alarms in the mind of a cold-blooded killer.
The author makes excellent use of flashbacks to 1952 London, in which an inspector named Gavin Hoxley investigates the murder of Erika Rosenthal's husband. Gemma studies Gavin's case notes, and as she learns more about Erika and David's lives, she begins to realize how the past and the present have converged, "as if time had rippled." Duncan and Gemma team up, pooling their resources to solve a series of brazen homicides. Meanwhile, Gemma has problems of a more personal nature. Her dad, Ern Walters, who always treats her with a touch of disdain, shows up at her home one evening while she is out. He tells Duncan that Gemma's mum, Vi, has collapsed and is in the hospital. Since Vi has always been lively, independent, and energetic, Gemma is dismayed to learn that her mother has a serious illness with an uncertain prognosis. Gemma is also guilt-ridden because her busy schedule has kept her from looking in on her parents more often. She struggles to come to terms with her mother's illness, her father's resentment, and her fear of accepting Duncan's marriage proposal.
Crombie has assembled a varied and colorful cast. Gemma and Duncan are soul mates who are enjoying their well-earned contentment after years filled with misfortune and heartbreak. Erika Rosenthal is a dignified and self-sufficient woman who keeps her own counsel until she is ready to tell her horrifying tale. Kristin Cahill is an ambitious and attractive girl with an art history degree who is employed at Harrowby's. She is in love with Dominic Scott, a "pretty boy" with bad habits and unsavory associates. Dom's mother, Ellen Miller-Scott is a beautiful, haughty, and wealthy woman who disapproves of her son's irresponsible behavior. Harry Pevensey is a pretentious actor in decline. In spite of his shrinking bank account, he still has a taste for the finer things in life and is hoping for a substantial "payoff from the recent little financial gamble he had let himself be talked into, against his better judgment." Doug Cullen, Kincaid's sergeant, is unlucky in love and is uneasy when Gemma tries to match him up with one of her colleagues, DC Melody Talbot.
Her effortless writing style, smooth dialogue, and strong characterizations make this one of Crombie's most satisfying works. She skillfully demonstrates how events that date back half a century have a way of reaching out and influencing the present. In addition, Crombie shows the disastrous consequences of prejudice, greed, ambition, and pride. "Where Memories Lie" works on many levels--as an intriguing murder mystery, an exploration of an appalling chapter in European history, and a deeply affecting tale of complex personal relationships. This is a poignant and engrossing installment in a deservedly long-running and popular series.