All Shall Be Well

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

The heroes in ALL SHALL BE WELL, like those in Deborah Crombie’s first mystery, A SHARE IN DEATH, are Superintendent Duncan Kincaid and Sergeant Gemma James of Scotland Yard. In this novel, Jasmine Dent, a fifty-year-old cancer victim, has little time left to live, but when she dies from a morphine overdose, Kincaid, her upstairs neighbor and friend, finds too many loose ends to believe she killed herself rather than endure the pain of her illness any longer.

Close to middle age and reflective by nature, Kincaid is helped in his investigation of Jasmine’s death by the younger and more blunt Gemma James. As his feeling for Jasmine’s secretive personality intensifies his desire to solve the case, Gemma’s difficulty supporting herself and her two-year-old son Toby on her own distracts her as she takes up her share of the interviews the investigation requires.

The suspects include Theo Dent, Jasmine’s insolvent brother; Meg Bellamy, Jasmine’s friend and former colleague from the Council Planning Office; Major Harley Keith, Jasmine’s elderly downstairs neighbor who was stationed in Calcutta when she was a child there; Roger Leveson-Gower, Meg’s greedy lover; and Felicity Howarth, Jasmine’s nurse and an old acquaintance, whose son remains in a nursing home for an old injury as Jasmine’s long past lover Timothy Franklin remains in an asylum for schizophrenia.

Most of these characters need money, and as Jasmine’s will discloses, she left shares of her estate to them. The motive for her murder turns out to be more complex than greed, however, as Kincaid’s research into her past ultimately reveals.

The title derives from a war memorial in Dorset, where Jasmine and Theo were sent to live with their vicious Aunt May after their father died. “All shall be well” is ironic regarding Jasmine and her murderer, of course, but accurate too, for justice is served and several characters, including Gemma, begin to solve their emotional dilemmas.

If Deborah Crombie’s plot is a bit burdened by a surfeit of interviews, during which tea is often served and minor characters highlighted, her style is graceful, her descriptions vivid, and her characters enriched by problems that reach beyond the crime which presents them.