I thought Val McDermid's last Hill/Jordan book, `Beneath the Bleeding', was comparatively disappointing. One Amazon reviewer noted that it seemed to have been written on autopilot and I think that was a fair observation - it was an entertaining read but completely lacked the dark, brooding intensity of the first novels in the series. `Fever of the Bone' represents a welcome return to form. The atmosphere isn't as murky and tortuous as the earlier Tony Hill books perhaps but it's certainly an unusually rich, thoughtful and absorbing detective story. It doesn't have the power of `The Mermaids Singing' but it's really well paced and plotted and the characters are deftly drawn. Although the murders are gruesome and upsetting it's a bit less nasty than some of the earlier novels - it's in some ways a more straightforward police procedural than these, closer to, say, Stephen Booth or Peter Robinson in tone. Setting aside the fact that four teenagers are brutally murdered, there's actually some warmth and humour in `Fever of the Bone' - McDermid is being a bit kinder to her regular characters than she sometimes has been in the past.