Cover Image: A Bitter Feast

A Bitter Feast

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Member Reviews

Although this book deals with chefs and cooking, it is not a cozy. Kindcaid and James head to the country to stay at a manor house and attend an event. They travel separately, so Gemma is unharmed when Duncan gets into a fatal traffic accident and is badly hurt. His condition, as he attempts to recover, plays a role in the investigation into the deaths of the two people in the other car. There are twists and turns along the way, and when the final resolution comes it seems plausible although I didn't see it coming. I thoroughly enjoyed the plot, as well as the descriptions of the restaurant world. The characters were well drawn, with the main series characters compelling enough to make me want to read another in this long standing series.
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While this book is part of a long-running series, it makes a great stand-along mystery.  Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James, along with their children, have been invited to the country estate of one of their friends and colleagues in order to attend a charity luncheon catered by a celebrity chef in the area.  As Kincaid arrives in town to join his family, there is a tragic car accident followed by several other incidents that could derail the whole event.  Fortunately, the Scotland Yard Detective Superintendent is there, along with his wife the Deputy Inspector to work toward investigating the events and putting things to rights.
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A Bitter Feast is a cozy mystery style police procedural. The main characters, married members of Scotland Yard (a detective superintendent and detective inspector), take their kids on a trip to the country to stay with a coworkers wealthy family. They travel in separate vehicles and Duncan is in a car accident which results in the deaths of the two individuals in the other vehicle. The cause of the accident and the deaths is a mystery, and Duncan and his wife Gemma involve themselves in the investigation. 

A Bitter Feast is an interesting, slow burn mystery set in a bucolic area. One of the dead individuals is a chef so there is a substantial, sustained focus in this book on cooking and professional kitchens. A Bitter Feast is the newest installment in a long running series and can be read as a standalone novel, though the character relationships and connections will be clearer if you read the series in order. I recommend this book for fans of British cozy mysteries and cooking cozies. 

3.5 stars The opinions in this review are honest and my own. #ABitterFeast #mystery #cozymystery
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I enjoyed this new installment from Deborah Crombie, and immensely enjoyed the setting in the world of professional kitchens. Here's my snippet from the Fall Book Preview on Modern Mrs Darcy:

This is book #18, but listen to me talk about the first in the series, A Share in Death, on One Great Book. You should definitely read this series in order. Crombie loves the classics like Agatha Christie and something I love about her series is that you get the characters' personal lives in every novel, but you also get the procedural and they have a strong sense of place. I love this British mystery series, and highly recommend it for Louise Penny fans.
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I enjoyed this book so much -- the lush vivid descriptions of the Cotswolds, the feeling of old England, and the absolutely wonderful characters. 

I have not read very many from this series and nonetheless was able to get into the story and the characters. That alone is a huge plus for me as a readers advisor -- I can recommend this to any patron looking for a good strong cozy-ish mystery heavy on the setting, with a fairly meaty plot. 

The children were especially well-drawn and thoughtful, which I appreciated. Kids don't always get robust characterization in adult books. :) 

I will also be able to recommend this to any food lovers as the descriptions of the catering menus are divine!! 

Thank you so much for the opportunity to read and review this wonderful book.
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It is always a pleasure to read a new mystery by Deborah Crombie.  Set in the Cotswolds, Crombie's prose clearly depicts the charming villages, yellow stone and yes, even the Cotswald Gin.  The plot is interesting and pulls together the well known characters from her previous novels. Fans of Crombie's will not be disappointed!
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I have never read any book by Deborah Crombie, so I definitely am not familiar with this series. Therefore, I can honestly say you can absolutely read this as a standalone novel.

My favorite part about this book was the setting. Not just the town, but the feeling around this story. The pub feel, and the country estate with a slightly sinister mystery woven throughout, really grabbed me from the very beginning. I really loved curling up with this book at night.

Obviously, the star was the hidden backstory, the obvious mystery peeking through the plot events. For me, the best supporting character has to go to the food. So many different mouth watering dishes and drinks were mentioned that I got hungry nearly every time I read. I also found myself wishing, for about the 800th time, that I had a pub to go to.

The story was very well paced and easy to follow. I really enjoyed the characters and will try to go back and read the rest of the series. I love to say that books are compelling, but here I was sucked in and pulled along into Deborah’s world.

I’m adding Cotswold to my travel list because it sounds beautiful.
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3.5 stars

Thankfully, this book read as a stand-alone novel for me. When I was offered the book, I had no idea that this book was #18 in a series.  Luckily for me, Deborah Crombie wrote and intriguing book about murders in the Cotswolds. Scotland Yard Detective Superintendent Duncan Kincaid and his wife, Detective Inspector Gemma James have been invited to spend the weekend with friends, the Talbot family. They are there for a quiet weekend and to attend a charity luncheon.

Arriving separately from his family, Duncan is involved in a fatal car crash.  What's more interesting is that one of the deceased may have been dead prior to the crash.  This crash is just the beginning, as the crash is investigated, the reader is introduced to various characters including Viv, a chef who left London to raise her daughter and work in the Cotswolds.  Viv also happens to be the Chef preparing the food for the posh charity luncheon.

As the various characters are introduced, it is evident that many have secrets and have secret pasts and interactions with each other. As the investigation progresses, the story is further told through flashbacks to Viv's work history in London.  

I found this to be an engaging and compelling read. I really enjoyed it and I have to say it made me want to go back and read the earlier books in the series. I enjoyed how the story was told and getting to know the characters both major and minor. I found this to be a fast read which did not disappoint and may even make you hungry with all the food talk.  Plus, if you have never been to the Cotswolds, you may want to take a trip to both Upper and Lower Slaughter.

Thank you to William and Morrow HarperCollins Publishers and NetGalley who provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All the thoughts and opinions are my own.
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Detective Superintendent Duncan Kincaid and his wife, Detective Inspector Gemma James, have accepted an invitation from DS Melody Talbot, Gemma's subordinate, to visit the Talbot estate in Gloucestershire.  Melody's parents, Addie and Ivan graciously welcome Gemma and her children to Beck House for a relaxing weekend.  Alas, Duncan, who drove up alone, is injured in a tragic car crash. 

Ivan and Addie fuss over Duncan, whose is hurt more severely than he is willing to admit. Meanwhile, Viv Holland, a gifted chef who runs a local pub with her business partner, Bea Abbott, is about to cater a fancy charity luncheon at Beck House that will require hard work and meticulous preparation. If she and her team can pull this off, it will raise her profile in a competitive field.  Fans of Deborah Crombie who love cooking will relish her latest murder mystery, "A Bitter Feast." This complicated tale has a large cast of characters, and one of the key figures is the egotistical Fergus O'Reilly, an excellent chef who, having fallen on hard times, barges into Viv's pub, makes a scene, and then abruptly departs. He and Viv have a tense history that is revealed in flashback.

This work of fiction has enough subplots to fill two books.  The author spends a great deal of time discussing what goes into operating an upscale restaurant. She also delves into the fraught personal lives of Melody, the employees of Beck House, and Viv and her colleagues.  In addition, a local detective interviews suspects in a series of suspicious deaths.  This cluttered novel is sluggishly paced and the story involving the stressed-out Viv and her resentful daughter, Grace, is melodramatic and predictable.  This is not a particularly suspenseful or exciting whodunit, but it is an informative primer on what goes on behind the scenes in high-class dining establishments.
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Deborah Crombie writes one of my favorite mystery series. This rainy morning with a nice cup of tea, I finished the latest, just released series installment -- A Bitter Feast.

As the book opens, Ms. Crombie takes the London-based police team of Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James on an idyllic escape to the English Cotswolds. With their children and fellow police detective, Doug, all are invited to spend a restful weekend in the village of Lower Slaughter.

A village called Slaughter? Well played Ms. Crombie -- what could possibly go wrong? Actually it's a double entendre -- Slaughter comes from the Old English word 'slothre' meaning muddy place. Just part of the wonderfully sly writing style Ms. Crombie brings to all her books.

A Bitter Feast starts off slowly with all the elements of a cozy mystery - a picturesque village, a warm English pub, and the lovely manor house to which Melody has invited her fellow police crowd to stay for the weekend. The manor house has a spectacular garden, the pub boasts a wonderful chef, and there's a sense of tranquility around Duncan and Gemma's getaway to the Cotswolds.

But, as to be expected when there's an assembly of police officers -- their restful holiday soon goes awry with car wrecks, murders, poisonings, and illicit village affairs.
As always, Ms. Crombie's characters are well-developed, as they have been over the course of the series. All my favorite characters are here, I know them well. But interestingly, Ms. Crombie puts both Duncan and Gemma somewhat in the background (after all they're on holiday remember?) and lets others to take the lead in the investigations of the crimes befalling Lower Slaughter. Melody's upper class background comes into full spotlight as we are introduced to her titled parents and manor house. Especially interesting was to see Duncan's 15 year old Kit acting well beyond his years and stepping into adulthood.
A Bitter Feast is a purely wonderful, chunky book and well worth buying in hardcover right now. As is custom, Ms. Crombie and her publishers include a hand drawn map of the setting on the flyleaf (hardcover only - worth the price alone).

A sample of this map and the full review of the book at bookbarmy(dot)com
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A Bitter Feast is the 18th Duncan Kincaid mystery. Crombie’s police procedurals come with a side-benefit: you’ll have an armchair holiday in the British Isles, complete with a detailed map. Readers will be enthralled by the beauty of the Cotswolds and experience a country house weekend vicariously, through the generous auspices of Melody Talbot, “Gemma’s trusted detective sergeant.”

“Mum’s putting on this big harvest festival do,” Melody had said. “She wants to meet you and Duncan. And Doug, too, God knows why. Do come. Seriously.” Moved by an unexpected vulnerability in Melody’s expression, Gemma had impulsively agreed.

Gemma and her daughter Charlotte drive to Beck House with Melody: “‘I want my tea,’ Charlotte said plaintively.” Melody assures Charlotte that they’re almost there and that she’ll love it. But much like J.D. Robb’s Eve Dallas, Gemma has her doubts about the bucolic version of the high-life.

Charlotte might, but Gemma was not at all certain about this country-house lark. She was a townie through and through. The city fit her like an old shoe, made her feel safe and comfortable. Outside of its confines she wasn’t quite sure what to do with herself.

Gemma is transfixed by her first glimpse of Beck House which truly beggars description.

The covered entry opened into a large dark-beamed hall that ran the depth of the house. Sun falling through the west windows painted the pale cream walls with blocks of gold, and through windows on either side of a staircase at the back, Gemma saw a garden and the green of rising hills. A fire already crackled in a large fireplace set at a right angle to the front door.


“It’s beautiful,” Gemma murmured. “And so unusual.”

Bitter Feast was a 2010 comedy/horror film: “A celebrity chef exacts revenge on a food blogger who torpedoes his career.” A Bitter Feast is centered around a celebrity luncheon for charity in the Cotswolds. Melody’s mother, Lady “Addy” Adelaide’s “big harvest festival do” features “up-and-coming chef Viv Holland.” Holland is the chef of a homey pub restaurant, where she transforms the bounty of the countryside into sumptuous meals.

Sometimes protagonists in criminal procedurals are tarred with the brush of blood. Duncan Kincaid, behind the wheel of his trusty Astra, is driving in the dark by the time he gets close to Bourton-on-the-Water, the closest town to the Talbots’ village. There’s no sat-nav in his old car so he’s being cautious.

He was wondering if he should find a place to pull over and check the map on his mobile when headlamps blazed suddenly from his left, blinding him.


Before he could throw up a hand or hit a brake, there came a tearing impact, and all went dark.

Duncan’s alive but he and his car are a right mess. He notices two sets of headlamps ahead. One of the cars is wrecked, with two people inside. A woman from the other car tells Duncan she’s going to call for help and would he “just talk to this lady here while I do that?” The woman is trapped and conscious: the body beside her is still. Fading fast, she asks Duncan if he’ll stay with her. When she says, “I didn’t mean . . .” Duncan reassures her.

“It’s all right,” he told her. “It was an accident.” He thought he heard sirens in the distance.


“No.” The woman turned her head until she could meet his gaze. “I didn’t … He was …” Her fingers tightened in his. “Please,” she whispered. “Tell them I—” And then the light went out in her eyes.

So much for a peaceful “country-house lark.” Gemma is beside herself waiting for Duncan to show up. Detective Sergeant Doug Cullen drives down the next morning with the two boys when he hears the news of Kincaid’s accident. The dead man in the car was Fergus O’Reilly, a famous chef who Viv once worked for, “a long time ago” in London. He and the dead woman in the car ate dinner, separately, at Viv’s pub that night. Then Jack, Viv’s bartender at the village pub, is mown down by a car. These are not coincidences: somehow Chef Viv Holland’s former life in London has found her out … and her eleven-year-old daughter Grace.

Over the years, an absorbing series expands to include more people. Sometimes it’s co-workers like Melody and Doug, or in the case of A Bitter Feast, a new cast of characters in a novel environment. Lady Addy and her husband Sir Ivan are consummate hosts. Ivan’s talents will have everyone wishing for a friend/fairy-godfather/capable chap like him in their lives. Duncan is so badly hurt by the crash that he’s forced to take a back seat in the investigation and it’s Ivan who takes him in hand, chivvying him to the hospital and a host of other spots. Duncan “wondered how Ivan Talbot managed to navigate the spaces between his working-class background, newspaper baron, and country gent with such apparent ease.”

“I thought we’d have a chat with Mike Shelton,” Ivan gave Kincaid a sideways grin. “Who doesn’t golf.”


Mike Shelton, Kincaid soon learned, was Michael Shelton, Assistant Chief Constable, Operations, a slender, dark-haired main in his forties. Young for an ACC, Kincaid thought, as Shelton greeted them and shook hands warmly. He was in casual clothes rather than in uniform, and it wasn’t until Ivan said, “Thanks for taking the time to see us on a Saturday, Mike,” that Kincaid realized Ivan must have rung him and requested the meeting, probably while Kincaid was dealing with his phone.

It’s unusual to see Duncan a half-beat behind. He and Gemma are collaborators with the local cops and junior at that. Gemma reaches out for some investigatory help from London, but they don’t solve the case solo. It takes everyone noticing little things and along with observing, gauging when and when not to keep a confidence. Their oldest son Kit is an integral part of the story. He’s sensitive and intelligent, a bit of a natural at investigating.

I would be remiss if I didn’t recommend A Bitter Feast to foodies on both sides of the Atlantic. Mouths will water at the description of Chef Viv’s glorious al fresco luncheon. Murders are one thing, but the show must go on. When Addie praises Viv’s talents to the assembled guests, Viv is “flushed with pleasure.”

Even with the quirky presentation, the food, Gemma had to admit, had been divine. From the creamy, smoky trout spread, to the delicate salad with roasted pears, caramel, and a local blue cheese, to the meltingly tender lamb and white beans served in camping tins, it had been of absolute star quality.

In the acknowledgements, Crombie thanks “the staff at The Slaughters Manor House for their kindness and hospitality, and especially to Chef Nic Chappell for fabulous food, advice, and a tour of the manor house kitchen.” A Bitter Feast is a tour de force by Deborah Crombie—my only complaint is that we’ll have to wait a year or so before the next Duncan Kincaid mystery, but it’s worth it.
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A feast, yes; bitter, not at all!
Detective sergeant Melody Talbot has invited Duncan Kincaid, his wife Gemma James and their children, along with their friend and colleague Doug Cullen, to spend the week-end with her parents at their country estate in the Cotswolds. As an added treat, the Talbots will be hosting a charity luncheon catered by local pub owner and former London chef Viv Holland. The week-end has barely begun, though, before tragedy strikes, and the detectives realize their break from investigations is just not going to happen.
There are three elements to Deborah Crombie’s writing that make readers return again and again to this series. First, there is the essential element of the mystery, always an interesting situation. In A Bitter Feast it begins with a fatal auto accident that really was an accident but was related to a murder. Naturally, everyone has personal secrets, and blind alleys abound, but eventually, after further mayhem, of course, the murderer is revealed. 
Although she is American, Crombie’s books are also loved for their vivid English setting.  Perhaps, being a foreigner, she sees the countryside in ways that a native would not, but each time I read one of her books I start wondering if the wonderful English travel agent who planned my only trip to the British isles is still in business! Most of the books center on some particular neighborhood in London, but A Bitter Feast takes us to the Cotswolds, which I must now add to my itinerary when I track down that travel agent….
But I have saved the best for last. Hands down, Crombie fans return again and again for the series characters. These are fully developed people, and this aspect was especially prominent in this book. Since I had heard of Melody Talbot’s wealthy family numerous times in previous books, it was a special pleasure to meet them. Even more enjoyable was to get to know Duncan and Gemma’s children better and to see how their personalities are developing. The setting of the country week-end was nicely suited for that. A little exchange between Duncan and his 15-year-old son Kit, who played a significant role at the denouement, shows the warmth of the characterizations nicely: 
“Ginger beer for you, kiddo”, said Ibby…”Give him a sip[of the whiskey]”, said Kincaid. “He deserves it. And he should learn to recognize good whiskey so he won’t be tempted to drink the bad stuff.” Kit had taken one little taste, blinked watery eyes, and made a face. “I think I’ll pass on that, thanks, “ he said, coughing, but he looked pleased to be the hero of the hour.
WARNING: Because the development of the characters and their relationships is so central part to this series, I do NOT recommend reading this book BEFORE you read the earlier volumes. You will miss a lot in this book and also not enjoy the earlier books as much when you read those later.
In addition to these three elements common to the series, there are two other notable features in A Bitter Feast. The luncheon at the Talbots’ and the many scenes at Viv’s pub give ample opportunity for yummy descriptions of food that remind me that British cuisine does not deserve its bad reputation.  In addition, there is a dog, a young border collie named Bella whose owner is killed in the accident at the beginning of the book. A minor but heart-warming subplot concerns what will happen to Bella now that her beloved human is gone. 
None of the above elements will work, though, without good writing. There is plenty of it, like Kincaid’s reaction upon entering the home of a suspect, “The cottage, which had been gutted and renovated as open plan, was a study in expensive neutrals unbroken by color---rather, Kincaid thought, like its owner.”
Crombie fans who were less than enthralled by the last several books that had unsolved mysteries carried over in what some felt were cliffhangers will be glad to know that the series is back on track with all loose ends tied, even if Duncan and Gemma had to leave London to do it! But don’t worry; more murders do happen, and when they do, Duncan and the gang will be there to ensure that justice prevails.
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A BITTER FEAST by Deborah Crombie is the latest (#18) in the Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James Scotland Yard detective series by this best-selling author.  There are references to past adventures and a familiar cast of characters, but this could be read as a stand-alone mystery, too.  The story takes place primarily in Lower Slaughter, a small English village where Kincaid, James and their children have been invited to spend the weekend at a colleague's parents' estate. Thoughts of long walks and relaxing in the Cotswolds countryside have to wait when Kincaid is involved in a road accident where two people are found dead. It's a bit of a mystery as to why they were together and what ties one, a celebrity chef, may have to the village, especially after it appears that he may have been poisoned. Crombie deftly introduces characters and provides some needed backstory in flashbacks as the mystery grows. She definitely evokes the natural beauty and British village life where everyone knows each other and where dogs are an essential feature, too. Viv Holland, chef at the local pub, and her staff are key characters and Crombie provides ample details about food preparation, making the meals sound so appealing. Give yourself a treat and enjoy A BITTER FEAST which received a starred review from Booklist.
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An enjoyable romp through the historic Cotswolds. An interesting cast of characters and well written mystery. This was my first in the series I didn't feel at a disadvantage. I may go back and read the other books.

**I received an ARC from NetGalley for a fair and unboased review of this book.
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What if you are involved in a fatal accident, and one of the passengers in the other car appears to have been dead BEFORE the accident occurred?  That interesting dilemma is what the detectives in this book have to solve.  

When Scotland Yard detectives Gemma and Duncan Kincaid and their family are invited to a weekend away to a chocolate box Cotswold Village, they are hoping for a respite from murder and death.  But murder seems to follow this couple everywhere.

Gemma's colleague, Melody Talbot, has invited her boss's family to her parents' grand estate, Beck House.  That weekend  the Talbots are hosting a local harvest charity luncheon with food provided by a cosy area cafe owned by former London chef Viv Holland.  All paths to death seem to lead to this cafe.

Is there a link to the most recent death and Viv's former life in London?  Flashbacks of Viv's early days as a chef are threaded throughout the book.  The author has either worked in a restaurant, or researched the dynamics of a restaurant's running, because she captures the feel of life in the kitchen, and among the various restaurant staff, which adds to the fun of the book.  More deaths occur - is it the food? Stay away from the chive scones - just kidding. Really.

Most detectives don't have to solve a crime with their children underfoot.  Gemma and Duncan, for once, aren't in charge of the investigation, but they can't help but be drawn in on their family vacation weekend.  This book offers a balance between the relationships and activities of the various families, the restaurant staff, and the investigation.  If you like the ingredients of Gemma, Duncan, their three children, restaurant life and the ambiance of a small English village, you will enjoy this book

If you're looking for an unsentimental 'just-the-facts ma'am', straight police procedural, you might prefer one of the earlier books in the series, or a different series.  Gemma and Duncan are very likable detectives and parents, so it's easy being in their company and minds.  Their son, Kit, has a bit of a starring role in this story.  It's fun to see his evolution.

Crombie's writing is at its best in this book. I was happy to escape to this scenic Cotswold village and cosy English pub each night before bedtime. I was reminded of Prince Harry and Meghan's Cotswold stay at the Soho Farmhouse while I was reading this book and picturing the Farmhouse. By the way, if you go on Trip Advisor, you will see an abundance of Manors and Country Inns in the Cotwolds where you can stay now for about $100 a night.  That visual sojourn on Trips Advisor adds some atmosphere to the reading.

When is this series going to be made into a TV series?  It's a natural with all of the different settings for the author's books.  With such engaging characters and original plots, it should be popular.
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This is the first book I have read in this series. After starting it, I realized there were previous books but I was able to easily read this book stand-alone. It just made me want to go back to the beginning and start with book number one, which I have since purchased.

The story is set in the Cotswolds, where husband and wife police duo, Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James, have been invited along with their children to spend a relaxing weekend, along with co-worker, Doug Cullen, as a guest of another co-worker. That co-worker, Melody Talbot, turns out to be from a family that is quite wealthy as well as powerful.

The story begins with an introduction to Viv, a chef who is to cater a luncheon for Melody’s mother. She has been hiding her light at a small pub that she co-owns, rather than spending her time making a name for herself in London. She wants to spend more time with her daughter, Grace, who is eleven years old.

Duncan and Gemma are traveling separately to the weekend get-away and to attend the luncheon. Gemma and the children arrive safely but Duncan gets involved an a nightmare of a car accident. While he walks away from it, the occupants of the other car do not.

It quickly becomes clear that not all was as it seemed at first and there is a mystery to be solved. As there are four police officers from detective on down (Duncan, Gemma, Melody and Doug, the local detectives have more manpower than they would normally have to solve the case.

More and more layers are added, as a another murder happens. All of the characters and plot twists tie together by the end. It provides for a fast-paced but also in-depth story to read.

I’m looking forward to both continuing with the series and to going back and reading the previous seventeen books.

I was provided a digital advance reader copy of this book by the publisher via Netgalley.
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4.5 Stars -  Top Pick 

Scotland Yard detectives Duncan Kincaid, Gemma James, and their children are spending a weekend in the Cotswolds, courtesy of Gemma’s friend Detective Sergeant Melody Talbot. Gemma and Duncan are two of the few people who know about Melody’s wealthy background so Melody feels comfortable inviting them to her family home. Gemma and Duncan are both  looking forward to attending the charity luncheon Melody’s mother will be holding during their stay. However, Gemma and Duncan’s relaxing weekend turns into a working holiday when someone close to the local chef catering the luncheon is murdered.

A Bitter Feast is part of a long-running series, but works well as a standalone mystery for those unfamiliar with the author. This book, like the others in the series, are well-written with intricate plots and characters you care about. Gemma and Duncan are likable individually and as a couple. It’s strange to see them investigating but not in charge of the case in this book. Gemma is used to the city streets of London and it’s interesting to see her working on case in an unfamiliar environment. The descriptions of the setting made me wish I could spend a long weekend in the Cotswolds! Another difference in this book is that because of events occurring at the beginning of the book, Duncan is put in a vulnerable situation which is unusual for him.

In addition to the main characters I already liked, I enjoyed getting to know more about Melody’s family and seeing her seem to be coming to terms with her family’s wealth. There were a few too many complications in Melody’s love life, but that didn’t take away from my enjoyment of the book as a whole. On the other hand, it is great seeing Duncan and Gemma’s fifteen-year-old son playing such a large role in the story. He has grown up and matured since the earlier books in the series and it is nice seeing him with individual personality and really contributing to the story.

The search for the murderer kept me guessing throughout the book. There are some red herrings to keep the reader guessing since there are a few characters hiding secrets that make them suspicious, but their wrongs fall short of murder. I thought I had figured out part of the solution to central crime, but learned I was way off on the motive and the killer’s identity. Reading a Deborah Crombie novel is like spending time with old friends. Great characters, an interesting plot, and excellent writing combine for an enjoyable, intriguing novel. This well-crafted mystery is perfect for fans of Peter Robinson or Cynthia Harrod-Eagles.

~ Christine
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You will be forgiven if your mouth waters uncontrollably while reading Deborah Crombie’s latest entry in the Duncan Kincaid/Gemma James mystery series, A Bitter Feast (HarperCollins, 2019). The action is set in the picturesque Cotswolds and centers around a pub in the village of Lower Slaughter, which boasts a world-class chef serving up the ultimate pub food. Why such a talent is toiling in obscurity after having shone at a Michelin-starred London eatery is just one of the mysteries that is eventually unraveled here. Others are more momentous, involving multiple suspicious deaths and the private lives of various village denizens.

Crombie often weaves together storylines from the past and present in her mysteries, and A Bitter Feast is no exception. At regular intervals we jump back to chef Viv Holland’s time in London, learning how her culinary career began and why she left it behind. Characters from that past play key roles in the present, drawing the two storylines together in the end. Meanwhile, Detective Superintendent Kincaid and Detective Inspector James find their holiday weekend turned into a busman’s holiday almost at the off, when Duncan is involved in a serious automobile crash that leaves two people dead. His own injuries keep him from fully asserting himself in the subsequent investigations, but fortunately the local constabulary proves to be both up to the task and not afraid to accept help from Scotland Yard when it’s offered. It’s a refreshing change from the usual obstructionism that local law enforcement tends to exhibit in run-of-the-mill murder mysteries.

Devoted fans of the series will be delighted that even though Gemma and Duncan have ventured out of London and away from their Metropolitan Police home base, many of the series’ most prominent secondary characters are along for the ride. Of course the couple’s children are along, and it’s a relief to find that Duncan’s son Kit is starting to outgrow his overly sensitive teenage persona and becoming a more well-rounded character in his own right. But we also get more-than-cameo appearances from Gemma’s detective sergeant, Melody Talbot, and Duncan’s own DS, Doug Cullen, as the quartet are spending the weekend at the country home of Melody’s posh parents.

And then there’s the food. Oh my, the food! Crombie does a fine job of illustrating the chaos of a working commercial kitchen, and an even better job of describing the output of that process in delectable ways. I wasn’t very far into reading before I was tempted to book the next flight to the Cotswolds. Only the knowledge (revealed in Crombie’s author’s note) that the pub and chef are fictional kept me curled up in my reading chair until the end.

For me, the appeal of Crombie’s work is tilted more heavily toward the compelling characters and world that she has created, though there’s nothing wrong with her plotting. I love both Duncan and Gemma, and I enjoy spending time with them, their blended family, and their friends. It was smart of Crombie to give a fresh feel to the series by moving the action outside of London, while retaining the core character set that drives much of the reader’s interest. And as always, even as a mystery is solved, the characters’ lives continue to grow and develop. This time around, I’m eager to read the next entry to find out how Melody’s personal dilemma resolves itself.

If you’re already a fan of Duncan and Gemma et al., you don’t need me to tell you this is worth your time. If you’ve not had the pleasure of meeting them yet, I would suggest starting with the first in the series, A Share in Death, and working your way forward. Some series don’t need to be read in order, but this one is infinitely more rewarding if you experience the characters’ growth and change along the way.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book through NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.
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A Bitter Feast by Deborah Crombie is part of a series of which I unfortunately haven’t read any previous books.  It can be read as a stand-alone but there are a lot of characters which can in the beginning be very confusing.  That said I really enjoyed the story which centers on a visit to a stately home in a small village where one of the main characters is involved in a car crash that kills at least one person.  
   As four of the main characters are with the police in London they soon do a significant portion of the work solving what turns out to be murder.  
   The characters are very likable except for one little girl who is totally annoying.  
   I would definitely recommend this book and thank NetGalley for the ARC in exchange for my honest review.
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This long-awaited new novel in Deborah Crombie's British mystery series doesn't disappoint!

Scotland Yard Detective Superintendent Duncan Kincaid and his wife Detective Inspector Gemma James are with their family at the house of a friend in the British countryside. They are to attend a charity luncheon catered by local chef Viv Holland. Viv spent years working in London but now appears content to be a pub chef. A devastating car accident along with several deaths pull Duncan and Gemma into investigating with the local police. In picking apart the case, it becomes clear that bitterness lies beneath the surface in this idyllic countryside. Is the truth to be found in the past or closer to home?

This is a well plotted mystery set in autumn in the Cotswolds. The book is part of a series that is best read in order so the reader can appreciate the character development. There are also ongoing storylines that take place over several books. I have grown to really love these characters--their strengths and their weaknesses. I thought I had the mystery figured out but Ms Crombie always manages to add a surprise.

if you enjoy mysteries, especially British police procedurals, give this series a try! Thank you to Netgalley and Harper Collins/ William Morrow publishing for an e copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
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