To categorise this as a "Police Profiler" story underestimates the sheer power of Val McDermid's prose. For a UK reader, her domestic locations add a realism missing from the American equivalents.
This is not, however, a cosy English mystery along the lines of Agatha Christie or even Colin Dexter. It is a modern commentary on our willingness to be sucked in by the artificial goodness of media heroes and how we prefer to ignore people of greater intellect than our own on the basis that their insights are somehow suspect.
This is the second of McDermid's longer mature works and proves that the expert command of detail and timing shown in the first was no fluke. Definitely worth full marks.
on 18 March 1999
Dr. Tony Hill has finally put together a team of young, keen profilers. His National Profiling Task Force's first commission is to discover why certain teenagers have gone missing. Though their assignment is supposedly an exercise only, excitement builds within the group when clever, attractive Shaz Bowman comes up with the theory that the crimes have all been committed by famous t.v. personality, Jacko Vance. Vance, the villain of the novel, is plausibly drawn as an important media star who was once a top athlete who lost the use of his arm in a heroic rescue of a lorry driver whose vehicle had been involved in a multiple pile up on a foggy motorway. Vance is a likely serial killer having had a poor childhood, been rebuffed by his fiancee after the accident, and above all being a total control freak. As we learn not only why Vance commits the murders but how in The Mermaid's Singing type of gruesome graphic detail, we are drawn into a world of horror and violence. The fact that we learn early on the identity of the villain moves this novel out of the realm of the whodunit into that of the whydunit and howdunit. McDermid is clearly fascinated by the psychology of her characters and not interested in giving her readers an old-fashioned puzzle to solve. After the mutilation of a member of his group, Hill again teams up with Inspector Carol Jordan who is working in CID in East Yorkshire, encountering all the typical male prejudice of the blunt Yorkshiremen. While Carol helps Tony, she also works to find out who is setting fires in her town, using her own knowledge of a serial offender's signature. The two themes of the efficacy of justice and police efficiency, which are apparent in McDermid's other novels, are also much in evidence in this latest series. Throughout The Wire in the Blood the police are shown as inefficient, blinkered and unwilling to listen to Hill's greater knowledge. The ending of the novel is a fascinating twist, making us question the justice system and our own safety.
Val McDermid is one of the very best thriller writers of our time, and although I have only recently finished reading this 1997 novel, it must rank as representative of VM at the peak of her abilities. Wire in the Blood is really hard to fault, and it's one of the very few books that I have read that isn't something to do just to pass the time - no, it's worthy of top choice on any list of means of entertainment. Cancel all appointments and read this first, it's amazing value!
Val is confident enough to name the killer on the first page yet develop and sustain tension for the reader until the very last one. Furthermore she has the ability to create and develop several characters that the reader can truly believe in, and build up a sense of strong like or dislike for more than one. The bad guy is one Jacko Vance, our feelings of hatred for him perhaps cleverly manipulated by the author by way of his iconic status as an adored public hero within the context of the story. The question is how will he be stopped? Fortunately his adversaries are the Hill-Jordan team, which might sound a little Formula One for anybody new to this series but in fact Home Office profiler/psychologist Dr Tony Hill and DCI Carol Jordan are in every sense a well-matched pairing, each with their own wardrobe skeletons and worthy of keen reader attention be they working alone or together. It's perhaps worth mentioning that Tony Hill is possibly the only male character in this story who comes out with any sense of respect or integrity, outnumbered as he is by several shining female roles. Even then, his potential status as Leading Man is undermined by his apparent impotence and subsequent inability to consummate the relationship that exists between he and Carol Jordan, who we assume has no such incapacities. There are more than a few lesbian references or characters which does call to question the accordant leanings of the writer, which I occasionally found distracting, but that's nitpicking in truth - this is a taut, well-paced thriller that makes for a great introduction to anyone new to Val McDermid.
I own all four of the Hill-Jordan novels but unfortunately I have read them in the wrong chronological order...just my luck to begin with the most recent (The Torment of Others), with its references to events in Berlin that I was yet to discover in the third in the series (The Last Temptation). That's what I'm reading right now immediately after finishing Wire in the Blood, and it's every bit as good as the others. Val McDermid is without doubt one of my favourite writers of crime thrillers and I recommend her work unreservedly.
Val McDermid has stated that Vance, a TV celebrity with a secret lust for torture, murder and under-age girls who featured in The Wire in the Blood and in two later books, is based on her direct personal experience of interviewing Jimmy Savile
This is the second of Val McDermid's Tony Hill novels. Hill has been asked to head up a Profiling Task Force, where young and talented officers will be taught profiling skills under his watchful eye. A routine classroom exercise results in one of the officers being murdered and Hill reunites with his friend and past partner, Carol Jordan.
I had watched the TV series before I came to this book and was a little hesitant, knowing that I already knew who the murderer was. However, I would still say that this book deserves a read. It is very well paced, the characters are interesting and rather than revealing the murderer at the end, we witness them carry out their crimes learning more about their motivations. The plot turns are also slightly different to those of the TV show, which kept it interesting for me!
Very enjoyable and well written. Recommended.
Val McDermid is one of the very best thriller writers of our time, and although I have only just finished reading this 1997 novel, it must rank as representative of VM at the peak of her abilities. Wire in the Blood is really hard to fault, and it’s one of the very few books that I have read that isn’t something to do just to pass the time - no, it’s worthy of top choice on any list of means of entertainment. Cancel all appointments and read this first, it’s amazing value!
Val is confident enough to name the killer on the first page yet develop and sustain tension for the reader until the very last one. Furthermore she has the ability to create and develop several characters that the reader can truly believe in, and build up a sense of strong like or dislike for more than one. The bad guy is one Jacko Vance, our feelings of hatred for him perhaps cleverly manipulated by the author by way of his iconic status as an adored public hero within the context of the story. The question is how will he be stopped? Fortunately his adversaries are the Hill-Jordan team, which might sound a little Formula One for anybody new to this series but in fact Home Office profiler/psychologist Dr Tony Hill and DCI Carol Jordan are in every sense a well-matched pairing, each with their own wardrobe skeletons and worthy of keen reader attention be they working alone or together. It’s perhaps worth mentioning that Tony Hill is possibly the only male character in this story who comes out with any sense of respect or integrity, outnumbered as he is by several shining female roles. Even then, his potential status as Leading Man is undermined by his apparent impotence and subsequent inability to consummate the relationship that exists between he and Carol Jordan, who we assume has no such incapacities. There are more than a few lesbian references or characters which does call to question the accordant leanings of the writer, which I occasionally found distracting, but that’s nitpicking in truth – this is a taut, well-paced thriller that makes for a great introduction to anyone new to Val McDermid.
I own all four of the Hill-Jordan novels but unfortunately I have read them in the wrong chronological order….just my luck to begin with the most recent (The Torment of Others), with its references to events in Berlin that I was yet to discover in the third in the series (The Last Temptation). That’s what I’m reading right now immediately after finishing Wire in the Blood, and it’s every bit as good as the others. Val McDermid is without doubt one of my favourite writers of crime thrillers and I recommend her work unreservedly.
on 12 June 2001
After reading The Mermaids Singing by the same author I was extremely hesitant about this one, the second in the series and hopefully not the last, could she do it again? The answer is an emphatic YES, another brilliant piece of fiction! The style of this book, which involves the same characters (Tony Hill and Carol Jordan) as the last one, is completely different in that the killer is unusually revealed before the story begins. Even so the tension Val McDermid creates as the team close in on their man is incredible. The refusal of the Police to believe that someone as famous and 'nice' as Jacko Vance could be involved in murder, despite the building evidence, is as frustrating for the reader as for Tony Hill. Will they save the latest victim despite having to work without the help of the Police?
While I still think that The Mermaids Singing has the edge this is another great book.
on 13 November 2004
Following on from The Mermaids Singing, this is the gruesome next chapter in the life and work of Tony Hill the Home Office criminal profiler and DCI Carol Jordan.
The book is written in a totally different way to The Mermaids Singing insomuch as the reader knows from page one who the murderer is and it more a case of the authorities having to gather together enough evidence to charge their main suspect rather than a traditional whodunit.
Like the first book, this novel is quite heavy on the description violence and I got the feeling at times that the author was simply trying to "up the stakes" on either her previous books or those of her contemporaries. Whilst I'm not squeamish I really do question whether so much detail is necessary.
The other slight gripes I have with the books are that McDermid does tend to rely on stereotypes in order to progress the storyline. In the first book we had pages of Carol Jordan's fight again sexism in the Police and therefore it was no surprise to find the Police in Yorkshire being described as both slow on the uptake and chauvinistic. Whilst I have no doubt these were facts of life in the Police surely for a book written in 1997 we don't have to have dialogue from policemen which goes something like "Aye now then lass, you leave it up to us professionals". Mind you it seems with every McDermid book I read the male characters become more and more inept and dim-witted, whilst the female leads become more and more attractive, intelligent and sophisticated.
The plus points for the book are that it is fast moving and never dull and the story composition makes it a compulsive read. The story also ends on a tasty note, just waiting for the sequel to be written.
All in all, this is a good solid thriller and well worth reading but it is by far not the best book I have read this year and whilst I will no doubt return to McDermid's other works sooner or later, there are other authors I would pick off the shelf before her offerings.
on 25 October 2015
Psychologist Tony Hill leader of a newly formed profiling task force, sets an exercise for his team of ambitious new coppers: to look for connections between the mysterious disappearances of young girls across Britain. One officer, Shaz comes up with a seemingly far-fetched theory that a high profile celebrity, Jacko Vance is the serial killer. Of course, she is laughed out of the building. Only when she starts digging deeper do things start to happen.
McDermid conveys the feel of Britain and the characters of various communities vividly, and I love some of her turns of phrases and character descriptions, which brought clear imagery of who was who regarding the many characters in the story.
I did feel the plot get tediously hampered by various things, for instance the 2 dullard coppers who decide to put under suspicion the entire profiling force for the murder of one of their own, simply because the team knew each other. Such a flimsy basis surely couldn’t give them the powers to dismantle a whole subdivision within the police force? One of the coppers, Waldron had the imagination of a fence post.
I also couldn’t see the relevance of a subplot involving the mysterious arson attacks within an industrial estate. I kept thinking the two stories would come together at the end, but they didn’t.
There were no great surprises or plot twists in the story, more a long chain of conversations between officers in stations or on crime scenes. Some of the events were recapped by various characters which got a little long-winded at times and I wanted the story to move on.
Vance, the serial killer was chilling, but I was confused at the end when a question mark was left as to whether Tony could get a cut and dried conviction against him. I was under the impression Vance had sexually abused his victim – if not, he had spat at her. This would have left DNA traces on her body. As the story was first published in 1997, I believe DNA science could have brought a conviction.
Believable characters and with some compelling scenes, but I felt the story could have been lopped here and there.
on 6 August 2015
Title: The Wire in the Blood
Series: Tony Hill & Carol Jordan (#2)
Author: Val McDermid
Release Date: 1st March 2005
Challenges: COYER Scavenger Hunt, 2015 Prequel & Sequel Challenge (2 points)
Links: Goodreads - Amazon
With the new Profiling Task Force being set up, Tony Hill has new recruits to train in Profiling techniques. Carol Jordan is now Detective Chief Inspector based in Seaford, and with a potential Serial Arsonist on the loose she tries her own hand at profiling. But when one of Tony Hill's new apprentices finds more than they bargained on in an exercise and ends up dead, Tony and Carol find themselves joining forces again to catch a serial killer of teenage girls.
I forgot how addictive these books were! When I reread The Mermaids Singing it made me wonder why I'd stayed away from crime books, and Val McDermid's books, for so long. It didn't take me long to feel that I should go back and so I picked up The Wire in the Blood (which is the book that named the TV show, though I wasn't a massive fan of that, which I think was to do with Robson Green not living up to the Tony in my head, even if he is a good actor).
As with The Mermaids Singing I didn't think that knowing the plot of the book detracted from it at all, though I didn't remember the plot nearly as clearly as I did the first one. The big difference in this book is that the reader knows from very early on who the murderer is, and the investigators catch on pretty quickly too, it's just the proving it that takes them time.
There is a real sense of racing against time with this book. At the same time as following the last days of one of the murderer's victims, the story follows the efforts of Tony's task force in trying to find the evidence to convict the murderer and find the girl. It really made me read with a sense of urgency.
The cast of characters expanded somewhat from the first book. With Tony and Carol both established characters there needed to be less time spent with them, meaning that more time went into exploring the other characters. In some cases it took a while for them to grow on me but each of them brought something to the table.
The relationship between Tony and Carol is super complex, and I like that. The book isn't romance, so it wouldn't be right for there to be a HEA in that department as such, but neither does McDermid shy away from that being an aspect of the characters' lives. Both Tony and Carol have feelings and attraction towards the other, but each have their own reasons not to pursue it. It's messy and complicated and that's what makes it perfect.
I can't believe I've missed out on these books for so long! Now it'll be interesting to see how long it is until I cave and read more McDermid!
" The Wire in the Blood," (1997) is second in what has come to take its name and be known as "The Wire in the Blood" series, of British mysteries/thrillers/police procedurals, by increasingly well-known Scottish-born author Val McDermid, now considered a leading practitioner, in company with Ian Rankin and Denise Mina, of the Scottish crime writing school that we call "tartan noir," for its high level of violence, sheer bloody-mindedness, and grisly, witty humor. McDermid grew up in a Scottish mining community - Kirkcaldy, as it happens, in the heart of the Fife coalfields. (Ian Rankin, currently the dean of Scottish mystery authors, is also from Fife.) She read English at Oxford, on a rare scholarship; worked as a journalist for 16 years, largely in Manchester, where she now lives. In 1995 she won the Gold Dagger Award for Best Crime Novel of the Year. Her novel A Place of Execution won a "Los Angeles Times" Book Prize, was named a " New York Times" Notable Book of the Year, won the Anthony, Macavity, and Dilys awards for best novel, and was a finalist for the Edgar Award. A television series that stars the toothsome Robson Green, Wire in the Blood: Series 1 and 2 (5 Disc Box Set) [DVD] , based, obviously, upon her "Wire in the Blood" series, has been available in the United Kingdom and the United States for some time.
For many a year, I thought "Wire" must be the first in the series named after it, though I've recently found I was wrong: The Mermaids Singingwas. I thought this because I was closely reading, as has always been my habit, Blood Work by Michael Connelly, and he'd found a way of shoehorning in, as he always did in his earlier works, mention of his next planned works. He mentioned that he was excited about a new, little known author named Val McDermid, and that the two of them were to collaborate on her next book, "Wire in the Blood." In the end, I don't know what happened to the proposed collaboration, but "Wire" duly appeared, authored by the then little- known McDermid. And people are always asking about that title. It comes from a poem,"Four Quartets," by T.S. Eliot: "The trilling wire in the blood/ Sings below inveterate scars/ Appeasing long forgotten wars."
At any rate, "Wire" marks the second appearance of Dr. Tony Hill, psychologist/criminal profiler, and Detective Chief Inspector (DCI) Carol Jordan, with whom he previously worked on the "Mermaids Singing" case. Tony is now heading up a recently formed National Profiling Task Force, trying to teach his work to a half-dozen young cops. Carol has been promoted out of Bradfield (for which read Manchester, McDermid's adopted home town, after her sixteen years there as a journalist), out to dullest, deadest Seaford, in East Yorkshire. The brightest light in Tony's class, Sharon Bowman, who prefers to be called "Shaz," finds a previously unnoticed cluster of disappearances, among young girls, that points to a previously unnoticed serial killer. And she thinks she's identified him, one Jacko Vance, formerly British sports hero; after a disabling injury, become a famous television personality, renowned, as well, for the charity work he does that takes him all over the country. Furthermore, Jacko is married to another outstanding TV personality, Micki Morgan, newswoman. Most people consider the famous couple above suspicion; but Shaz confronts Jacko with her suspicions.
Now, I have always had a pet peeve about mysteries centered on Charles Windsor, Price of Wales (see an early Tom Clancy); Elizabeth I (see the work of American schoolteacher Karen Harper);star TV people, sports figures, and performers of any kind (bestseller James Patterson is a frequent offender in this regard). I believe their presence shouts *television* and wrenches the best planned mystery out of shape; and so it does here, to a degree. But McDermid is writing at a white heat in "Wire," at the top of her considerable powers, and the mystery survives. It's one of her very best, in fact. Mind you, it's bloody, violent, and gruesome in the extreme, and not for everyone. I don't know why Connelly bailed, but he missed out on a good thing.