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Book Review: A Finer End by Deborah Crombie

Ancient Mystery and Contemporary Murder Mingle in Avalon Territory 

A Finer End, by Deborah Crombie
I don’t often read something published as a traditional mystery, thriller, and even police procedural that I think my friends who are into paranormal or urban fantasy might like, but this just might be the book to bridge that gap.

Set in contemporary Glastonbury (well, almost contemporary: it was published in 2002) at the foot of the fabled Tor, this is Book Seven in Crombie’s “Kincaid and James” series of British mysteries, but it most definitely will stand on its own. 

Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James are experiencing both personal and professional upheaval in this book. They move out of their roles as professional partners and explore their personal relationship–wherever it may be going–while Gemma faces a challenging new professional assignment and Duncan copes with the loss of his erstwhile sergeant (Gemma, who’s been promoted) and begins to learn how to parent Kit, the twelve-year-old son he only recently discovered he had.

Is the mysterious Glastonbury Abbey monk Edmund for real?

When Duncan’s cousin Jack Montfort asks him to come to Glastonbury for a weekend to help with a rather unusual matter, Duncan and Gemma hope spend some pleasant, relaxing time with him and each other. 

But when Jack’s “unusual matter” turns out to be mysterious automatic writing from a twelfth-century monk named Edmund of Glastonbury, in far more literate Latin than Jack could manufacture on his own, the weekend takes a decidedly unusual turn. 

And that’s before the murder of artisan tile-maker and former midwife Garnet Todd upends everything. What was Garnet’s odd obsession with the runaway pregnant teenager Faith Wills, and why is Faith seemingly compelled to climb the Tor, despite her delicate condition? Did someone also try to kill Jack’s girlfriend, the local vicar Winnie Catesby

Why does the pregnant teenager, Faith, keep trying to climb the Tor?

Ancient violence, contemporary murder, and intertwining mysteries reveal themselves through the eyes of many viewpoint characters, and spin into a gripping climax and resolution that you will not see coming.

I’ve been following Deborah Crombie’s work for several years (fairness disclaimer: she’s also a valued friend), and in 2015 I made it a project to read all 16-and-counting titles in her “Kincaid and James” series of mysteries set in Great Britain (a rewarding experience for me, both as a reader and as a writer). 

This book in particular is a master-class in juggling more than the usual number of POV characters while keeping all of them distinct and interesting, and weaving past and present, myth and police procedure, analytical logic and mysticism into a fascinating, multi-dimensional tapestry of story.

IMAGES: Many thanks to Amazon, for the book cover image; unfortunately, A Finer End is out of print, but Amazon still has copies available. The beautiful photo of the Glastonbury Abbey ruins is from TripAdvisorUK, and the evocative photo of Glastonbury Tor is by the AP photographer Peter Morrison, via Fairyroom.

Artdog Quote of the Week: What are you waiting for?


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Schaller’s “Winter White” Show offers varied visions

I love artisanal ceramics. My sister once said, “If you’re going to have useful items in your house, they might as well be beautiful.” I wholeheartedly agree. Beautiful and useful items–including artisanal ceramics–add joy and texture to daily life.

The delicate texture of this Bowl and Dinner Plate set by A. Blair Clemo is my favorite of the show.

At some point, this interest got me onto the mailing list of the Schaller Gallery, of St. Joseph, MI. Each month they feature top-shelf ceramists in several themed shows, which they share online. I recently logged on to view their “Winter White” show.

Here’s a different view of one of A. Blair Clemo’s wonderful bowls.

I’ve always loved the effects that can be developed with a white overglaze on subtle textures, so I eagerly clicked on the link. My standout favorites in this show were the bowls and dinner plates of A. Blair Clemo, who teaches at Virginia Commonwealth University, and whose work has been featured in shows all over the world.

Martha H. Grover’s subtle touch turns her Nested Bowls into something magical.

Another highlight of the show for me was Martha H. Grover’s  Nested Bowls, which also offer a subtle texture and organic treatment to a practical object. Grover is a widely-exhibited and highly regarded functional potter and porcelain artist who lives in Maine. She describes her approach as seeking to create “a sense of elegance for the user while in contact” with each piece.

Here’s a wider view of Grover’s Nesting Bowls, which combine subtle elegance and organic form.

Minnesota regionalist Matthew Krousey turns a simple Berry Bowl into something more.

I also liked Matthew Krousey’s Berry Bowl, featuring a graceful, spiraling base that turns a utilitarian object into a piece of practical artwork–just the aesthetic my sister described. Krousey describes himself as a “modern day regionalist” from Minnesota who regularly exhibits his pottery, sculpture and murals.

This angle gives a better look at the upper part of Krousey’s Berry Bowl.

These three artists offer markedly different approaches, but they all arrive at the fusion of practical and beautiful which is the joy of fine artisanal craft art.

IMAGES: All images are courtesy of the Schaller Gallery’s “Winter White” online exhibition. Please take some time to look at the entire show for yourself. There are many other wonderful pieces to see there!

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Artdog Image of Interest: Vision

Can you visualize your dreamed-of future?