All series thrillers have an element of the soap opera about them, and so it is logical that Val McDermid's sixth novel about Manchester private eye Kate Brannigan should take her into the world of television soaps. Tough computer-literate Brannigan is hired as bodyguard to the star of Northerners, which bears an uncanny resemblance to another soap filmed in Manchester. Brassy Gloria has been warned by her clairvoyant that death is in the offing, but it is the clairvoyant who gets her skull smashed with a crystal ball. Meanwhile, someone is leaking plot lines, Kate's burglar chum is accused of murder when he takes up honest work, and her staff find themselves in sexual predicaments.
There is a charm to all of this, and some intelligent puzzles competently worked through; McDermid knows, or competently invents, the social milieux she describes. The book is particularly good on the feel of the Northwest on a raw winter day--McDermid's writing gets better and better. This book, though, lacks some of the vigour of the earlier Brannigan books and their note of social protest. Her fans will have no complaints, but this is not the best of her books. --Roz Kaveney
‘Stunningly exciting, horrifyingly good’
‘This book has a sense of gravitas and intelligence utterly beyond lesser writers in the field’
‘Terrific chiller from Manchester’s answer to Thomas Harris’
‘A clever and exciting thriller’
‘A compelling combination of sexual-political mischief and Jacobean psychological intensity’
Sunday Times (of The Wire in the Blood)