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A Place of Execution [Paperback]

Val McDermid
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (135 customer reviews)

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A Place of Execution A Place of Execution 4.5 out of 5 stars (135)
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Book Description

6 Feb 2006

A riveting psychological thriller, now a major ITV drama, from the Number One bestselling Queen of crime fiction Val McDermid.

In the Peak District village of Scarsdale, thirteen-year-old girls didn’t just run away. So when Alison Carter vanished in the winter of ’63, everyone knew it was a murder.

Catherine Heathcote remembers the case well. A child herself when Alison vanished, decades on she still recalls the sense of fear as parents kept their children close, terrified of strangers.

Now a journalist, she persuades DI George Bennett to speak of the hunt for Alison, the tantalizing leads and harrowing dead ends. But when a fresh lead emerges, Bennett tries to stop the story – plunging Catherine into a world of buried secrets and revelations.

Product details

  • Paperback: 624 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins; New edition edition (6 Feb 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007217145
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007217144
  • Product Dimensions: 17.3 x 11.2 x 3.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (135 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 352,367 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Val McDermid grew up in a Scottish mining community then read English at Oxford. She was a journalist for sixteen years, spending the last three as Northern Bureau Chief of a national Sunday tabloid. She divides her time between Northumberland and Cheshire

Product Description

Amazon Review

Val McDermid is known for the violence, and tension, of her writing. Both The Mermaids Singing, which won the Gold Dagger Award for Best Crime Novel of 1995, and The Wire in the Blood (1997) are monuments to the human capacity for torture (and the psychological profiling supposed to counter it). No less thrilling, A Place of Execution is, however, a different kind of book. On one level, it is about the disappearance of a schoolgirl, Alison Carter, in December 1963: a girl from a tiny Derbyshire village whose disappearance turns into a personal quest for the detective heading the investigation, George Bennett. Resisting comparisons with real events in Manchester (what are now known as the "Moors Murders"), Bennett is confronted with the strange and isolated community of Scardale: a community reputed to be a "a law unto itself", it may well harbour the kind of secret which allows murder to reverberate across the generations. Building slowly with lots of suspense, McDermid takes her readers through Bennett's investigation and the trial that follows, projecting back to the beginning of the 1960s a very contemporary anxiety about the "desecration of childhood". It's an intelligent and compelling move, one that sustains the book's shift to the present and Bennett's return to the case decades later when he tells his story to the journalist Catherine Heathcote. Heathcote is a woman who wants to know; complex, thoughtful, skilfully plotted, A Place of Execution suggests how unsettling that knowledge can be. --Vicky Lebeau --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


'From the first pages, we know we're in the hands of a master this book will earn its author a place in that rare pantheon – the truly literary suspense novel' Jeffrey Deaver

‘Beautifully written … It may be that McDermid will write better novels than this in the future, but I do not see how’ Daily Telegraph

'One of the best detective stories I've read' Ruth Rendell

‘A substantial book and an impressive one, possibly the best McDermid has written and it takes this most accomplished writer into higher territory’ Sunday Telegraph

'A Place of Execution is a wake-up call to crime writers everywhere. A terrific and original novel, brilliantly executed' Mirror

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent ! 18 May 2002
By A Customer
I have read all of Val McDermid`s thriller books-the Carol Jordan/Tony Hill books and "Killing The Shadows", which I enjoyed, but to me this was the best.
The story starts off with the disappearance of a girl in the sixties in a very close and isolated community, the police investigation, the trial and then brings us to the present day to a truly stunning conclusion.
My only criticism is that there may seem to be rather a lot of people introduced in the early part of the book, but do not be put off by this. There is plenty of time to become familiar with the important ones, and although there may be some repitition at the trial stage, it is well worth the build-up to one of the strongest and most suprising endings of a book that I can ever remember. When so many books are enjoyable, but are let down by a weak ending, this is one book that does not disappoint, and has to be one of my all time favourites.
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56 of 60 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Possibly McDermid's best novel 7 Mar 2008
Val McDermid has written some outstanding novels (The Torment of Others, Wire in the Blood and Mermaids Singing come to mind) but somehow, somehow this one probably tops the lot. It is utterly immaculate in its (forgive the pun) execution, in its structure, in its characterisation and in its capacity to surprise and even deceive the reader. I need not go over the summary of the story here as so many others have already done that, but can I just repeat the words of the Daily Telegraph's Gerald Kaufman, who stated that 'It may be that McDermid will write better novels than this in the future, but I do not see how.' I concur with that view absolutely.

For those of you who remember seeing Hitchcock's 'Vertigo' the first time, you will probably recall wanting to see the film all over again immediately, realising at the end that most of what had gone before was not as you had assumed. So it follows that in A Place of Execution, despite admirably detailed accounts of the investigations into the case of a missing teenage girl back in 1963, which in effect come to a seemingly satisfying conclusion three-quarters of the way through the book, the final quarter which unravels itself 35 years later in 1998 manages to completely dismantle our earlier belief that justice had been done and made me want to read the 1960s part of this book again to see if I could have guessed what was coming. Of course, I already knew that there was going to be a twist to this tale and I took much pleasure in taking guesses as to what it would be; a miscarriage of justice was the most obvious, but that cannot be said to be true because for all human reasons other than legal, justice was clearly served even if there were some unexpectedly high prices to be paid, it later emerged, on the part of more than one victim.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb! 2 July 2002
By A Customer
This has got to be the best book I've read! I've never felt the desire to read detective or murder books, but this book was bought for me by a friend and without her, I would have never looked twice at the book or the author.
However, from the moment I began reading, I was hooked! The winning formula is created by the combinination of a missing girl, a very close-knit community that despises interference from strangers and a story that is set in the early 1960s during the time of the Moors Murders. The atmosphere of the 1960s and the investigation methods used by the police in that period is conveyed very vividly by the author and shows that she has carried out a thorough research before putting pen to paper. An atmosphere of mounting tension is created as the police try to gain new information, despite the hostility of the local folk of Scardale who seem to know more than they're letting on. The characters are all very believable and each one plays their part perfectly by building up feelings of apprehension mingled with great curiosity, giving the reader the urge to keep on reading until the truth is uncovered. By taking the mystery forward to present day, the author keeps the tension mounting and rewards the reader with a very satisfactory ending. Superb!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Real Page Turner 17 Oct 2010
Originally published in 2002, this is one of the best thrillers that I have read. Val McDermid spins a truly riveting tale of murder and suspense that is compelling and very unusual.

The basis of the story is the recounting of a 1960's murder case by modern day author Catherine Heathcote. The investigating policeman, George Bennett has always refused to speak about the case but Catherine befriends George's son and eventually he agrees to talk about it. The case was unusual in that a man was found guilty of murder and hanged, yet no body was ever found. This was George's first serious case, he was newly-married, his wife pregnant and the case shaped the rest of his life.

The 1960's story is excellently written - set in a strange, insular, out-of-the-way village in Derbyshire, the sense of place is amazing. The way that the villagers work together to ensure that George's job is made as difficult is possible is very well written. Eventually the case is solved, and a murderer is charged .............. but is that the end?

Back to modern-day and George suddenly refuses to co-operative further and asks Catherine not to publish the book. The remainder of the story centres on Catherine's further investigations into the case, and discovering the amazing truth behind a murder that most people have long forgotten.

I believe that this is McDermid's first stand-alone novel, she is the author of the 'Wire In The Blood' series. I enjoyed every twisting, turning page of this book. It kept me guessing right to the very end.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 13 days ago by Garry Iles
1.0 out of 5 stars Dragged
Went on and on (and on) and I thought the final solution was too ridiculous to be taken seriously. Awful! - avoid!
Published 14 days ago by T. Crane
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic
Story was riveting from start to finish. I was a kid in Ashton in the 60's and the first part of the book brought back a lot of childhood memories. Read more
Published 1 month ago by sue hawkesworth
5.0 out of 5 stars great story with a twist.
Engrossing hunt for a missing girl, leading to a murder investigation. A great story in itself but the unexpected twist at the end gives the book a second strand of mystery.
Published 2 months ago by carpediem
4.0 out of 5 stars Dark themes, but well done
I read this one for the Big Read 2014... This is another book that I probably wouldn't have chosen for myself. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Amazon Customer
2.0 out of 5 stars Just shoot me now
Lord this mundered on like a winding Dales beck. There is no doubting it is well written but so many words, the editors blue pencil should have slashed through 50%. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Gabrielle Page
5.0 out of 5 stars Good read.
One of the best reads in a long time. This book was recommended in the first place and I will do the same.
Published 2 months ago by Shirleyt
1.0 out of 5 stars so long winded...
it took half the book about 5 hrs of fast reading for the obvious suspect to b arrested! t they kept going on about on about smoking, i know lots of people smoked then but so dull... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Julian Hunt
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read
She never fails to keep me guessing, her plotsare so well thought out. I always make sure I buy her new books.
Published 2 months ago by Mrs. Mary E. Owen
5.0 out of 5 stars Val McDermid
All I Can say is beautifully executed . WOW a must read Val at her best love the story line
Published 3 months ago by gloria saunders
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