Monday 1 March 2010


Publisher: Harpercollins 2009

Val McDermid is a very popular, high profile crime writer so I was expecting great things. However, I found this novel very pedestrian.

Set in Scotland, cold case expert DI Karen Pirie is asked to look into two unsolved mysteries: the disappearance of two coal-miners during the miner's strike, plus the murder of rich-girl Catriona Grant and the disappearance of her young son.

You don't need to be a rocket-scientist to realise pretty quickly that the two cases are linked, although it takes forever for Karen Pirie to work this out. Hence there was very little in the way of suspense.

It's written in terms of time and place and jumps back and forward constantly, which was confusing at times, given that there were two cases and lots of characters. But my main critisism is that the pace doesn't vary at all. The plot just plods on with no variation until it reaches the end. And then it stops.

Plus, the development of Karen Pirie's relationship with her subordinate officer, Phil Parhatka, is a mystery to me, given the way that McDermid presents Karen Pirie (she doesn't come over, to me, as a very appealing character),and I don't have a clue about Phil Parhatka. So, what happens between them didn't work for me - it seemed a lazy way to come to some conclusions about the pair.

On the plus side, I really liked the character of Bel Richmond, the journalist, and scenes including her came more alive for me. Also, I did at least finish the book. But I shan't buy another one of hers. Life's too short and there are too many fantastic books out there to read.


Arnold Zeman said...

Agree very much with your comments: the book overpromised & underdelivered. And, perhaps I was asleep at the switch, but I didn't get the very end (conversation between Misha & her mum, I think). Grateful if you would disclose!

Maggie Knutson said...

Sorry, Znovalis - I can't remember either!