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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Solidly Constructed, Well-Plotted, Well-Written-- And Gory
"The Mermaids Singing"(1995), a British mystery, was the first of Scottish author Val McDermid's "Wire in The Blood" mystery series, and quite a stir it made, too. McDermid, who is now a prize-winning, best-selling author of 22 novels, is, of course, a leading exponent of the "tartan noir," school of mystery-writing: the specifically Scottish, bloody-minded, tough but...
Published on 9 Dec. 2009 by Stephanie De Pue

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A little disappointed
Whilst I enjoyed this book, what spoiled it for me was the enormous coincidence (spoiler alert) of the heroines brother being an expert on a computer system that the killer was also using. Which just happened to be used by only a handful of people in the country.(As Harry Hill would say "what's the chances of that happening") I thought this was lazy plot development...
Published on 23 Oct. 2009 by Peter Skingle


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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Solidly Constructed, Well-Plotted, Well-Written-- And Gory, 9 Dec. 2009
By 
Stephanie De Pue (Wilmington, NC USA) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Mermaids Singing (Paperback)
"The Mermaids Singing"(1995), a British mystery, was the first of Scottish author Val McDermid's "Wire in The Blood" mystery series, and quite a stir it made, too. McDermid, who is now a prize-winning, best-selling author of 22 novels, is, of course, a leading exponent of the "tartan noir," school of mystery-writing: the specifically Scottish, bloody-minded, tough but slyly humorous approach to a thriller, lightened by the mordant wit for which the Scots are known. As does the entire "Wire" series, "Mermaids" deals with the psychological profiling and stalking of serial killers. It introduces us to, and stars, Dr. Tony Hill, forensic psychologist and criminal profiler; also introduces us to Detective Inspector Carol Jordan, with whom he works. It's a police procedural and rather a suspense/thriller. Her "Wire" series is now, of course, the basis for a popular ITV television series of the same name, Wire in the Blood: Series 1 and 2 (5 Disc Box Set) [DVD] [2002], starring the toothsome Robson Green as Dr. Tony Hill.

McDermid jumped to worldwide fame and popularity on the heels of her A Place of Execution, which was nominated for an Edgar Award for Best Novel, won a Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and was named a New York Times Notable Book of the Year. She was born and raised in a Scottish mining town not far from Edinburgh, north of the Firth of Forth; won a scholarship to the ancient, highly-prestigious Oxford University,where she read English; and worked for sixteen years as a journalist in Manchester, where she still resides.

Despite her current English residence, she must be considered, along with Ian Rankin and Denise Mina, one of the leading lights of the Scottish school of mystery writing, "Tartan noir." This particular novel, as several others of hers, utilizes that technique so popular in the 1990's, of interspersing supposed "real" information, allegedly taken from books, newspapers, diaries and journals, through the text, and it really doesn't work well for the writer, or for me, it just slows things down every time.

The book is set in the author's fictional Bradfield, which looks a lot like Manchester when it's at home. Authorities have become aware that a sadistic sexual serial killer is torturing and murdering men possibly members of the city's gay community: the powers that be have reluctantly ventured to bring Dr. Tony Hill in on the chase. In the writing of the book, McDermid has borrowed a fairly significant idea from that fountainhead of all serial killer books, Silence of the Lambs , but the author makes good use of it, and pretty much makes it her own. Her "Mermaids" is solidly constructed, well-plotted, and well-written, but be in no doubt: it's gory and violent: only you can know your taste in those matters.

The author opens her narrative in Tuscany, where her killer is on vacation. The unidentified killer has dutifully toured around Florence, and finally gets to go to nearby San Gimignano, which makes some lovely chianti, and is known in the tourist trade as the medieval Manhattan, because the hostile families that lived there erected more than 100 towers to protect themselves from each other. In that walled city the killer finds the true object of the vacation, the "Museo Criminologico," a collection of instruments of torture. Of course, I am an insane, crazed mystery fan, and not that long ago followed McDermid's killer, to Tuscany, Florence, San Gimignano. Loved the ice cream the latter city had to offer, but didn't seem to notice said museum. However, I found it in Florence; stood hesitating in front of it for fifteen minutes, in the pouring rain that washed out that vacation, and never went in. The fellow who's now my husband would have none of it. As I said, only you can know your feelings about these matters.
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75 of 78 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars More human than Cornwell and more thought than Patterson, 24 Jun. 2000
By 
Mr. D. J. Carr "David Carr" (London, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Mermaids Singing (Paperback)
Val McDermid is one of the few writers which successfully merge the reality of a UK setting with the thrill of the chase.
Her background as a newspaper reporter seems to enable her to write developing stories in a style that makes you feel you are there. Her characters are more human than those found in Patricia Cornwell's police thrillers, and the characters have more depth than the typical James Patterson. She avoids the new realism which seems to demand more explicit torture scenes in short chapters, relying instead on a more thoughtful exposition of the motives involved and a true sense of time in the plotting.
Her development of the personality of Tony Hill is well-paced, and manages to blend the abstract analytical facet of his work with his human frailties and self-blindness.
This book encouraged me to read her back-catalogue works; the schoolgirl mystery stories of Lindsay Duncan and the Warshawski-like Brannigan series which although lighter in tone show the love of detail on which this more mature work depends for its success.
I unreservedly recommend it as a more human approach than Cornwell and created with rather more thought and insight than Patterson.
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36 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Grippingly Superb!, 4 Sept. 2002
By A Customer
This review is from: The Mermaids Singing (Paperback)
What a great book! I was hooked from the minute I began to read. The characters became so real and the plot so nerve-tinglingly tense, that I could not put this book down! By the time I got to the last few chapters, I found myself reading faster and faster just so that I could find out what would happen next - would Batman arrive in time?!!! Seriously though, the detailed descriptions of the killer's methods (to me) were necessary for the heightening of the tension. Without such detail, the killer would not have seemed half as scary or crazy. If you love a good read and have a very strong stomach, read and enjoy!
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A psychological thriller, 21 Sept. 2007
This review is from: The Mermaids Singing (Paperback)
This is the first in the series of clinical psychologist Tony Hill, and it kicks off to a good start.
Tony Hill explores the mind of a serial killer, which in turn puts the reader inside the mind of the killer also.
This is a well written psychological thriller which keeps you guessing right till the very end on who is brutally torturing and mutilating men to death.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A taut and gripping thriller, 20 Mar. 2010
This review is from: The Mermaids Singing (Paperback)
Hi folks; I expect everybody here knows by now that Val McDermid won the Gold Dagger for best crime novel of the year. For all her fans out there I thought you'd also like to know her feet haven't touched ground since!
The Mermaids Singing is quite a departure from Val's Kate Brannigan books, marking a big step forward in writing style. This is a taut and gripping thriller that can easily take on the American 'hard-boiled' and come away dusting its hands. A serial killer with a liking for torture is tracked by a deeply damaged investigator, but this is no easy formula writing, the plot twists and turns like a labyrinth and makes it much too easy to fall into the trap of rashly presuming what and who culprit and victims might be. The suspense build up makes this book totally unputdownable, and I give a personal guarantee that after reading The Mermaids Singing, many heterosexual men will be very, very wary of opening their door to a stranger...... The lucky publishers are HarperCollins. Happy reading!
Kay Mitchell, creator of the Chief Inspector Morrissey Mysteries. (also known as Sarah Lacey, creator of Leah Hunter, PI.)
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Worth staying an extra stop on the train for!, 5 April 2001
By 
Susan Elisabeth Hursey (Barcelona, Barcelona, ES) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Mermaids Singing (Paperback)
I have read all of Val McDermid's books, but this one really had me sneaking a look at the book at work, walking down the street etc etc. McDermid involves you fully with the characters and the action and although you are horrified by the sickness of the crime, you are somehow allowed to understand the killer's mind. I wasn't sure whether to read quickly to get to the end or savour slowly so that I didn't finish it too soon.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Graphic novel with tension and good characterisation, 6 Aug. 2011
By 
Mr. R. N. Lock "Ricky Lock" (Bexley, Kent) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Mermaids Singing (Paperback)
This is good read and explores sexuality in a harsh and graphic way. The story is around catching a serial killer with the backdrop story of a Doctor in Psychology helping form a profile for the police. It was interesting the way the book described the police tactics and struggles - there were good characterisation, which kept you hooked in to the plot and kept the tension up throughout. This book is revealing and not for the feint-hearted.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars And so it begins...., 13 Sept. 2013
By 
Liz Wilkins "Lizzy11268" (England) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Mermaids Singing (Paperback)
So with great anticipation I set off on my re-read of all Val McDermids novels and I began with "The Mermaids Singing" the first in the series featuring Tony Hill and Carol Jordan.

In Bradfield the bodies of four men have been discovered...with the police reluctant to link them Dr Tony Hill is already certain that a serial killer is operating in the area. When forward thinking ACC John Bradfield enlists Tony's help to profile the killer, he is teamed up with Carol Jordan and so begins their story...

Not for the faint hearted, Ms McDermid weaves a gruesome tale....the killer being obsessed with medieval torture instruments means that none of the victims died easily..and there are no punches pulled. The mystery element, as will become a trend in the series, is pyschologically complicated and compelling...and it makes for an involving read.

The seeds of the ongoing relationship between Tony and Carol is astutely done..once you have finished this you will want to know whats next. They are both well drawn characters with hidden depths - in this, the early stages of knowing them, Ms McDermid gives us an intriguing and captivating peek into their lives. And I can promise you it gets better.

All in all a high standard of Crime Fiction with protagonists you will want to follow and a formidable villain to boot - if you are a fan of this genre they don't come much better than this. And if you only dip your toe in Crime you might want to take a paddle....

Happy Reading Folks!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Disturbingly good, 29 Sept. 2008
By 
Miss "crazyminx" (Coventry) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Mermaids Singing (Paperback)
If you're a fan of crime novels and you've never read anything by Val McDermid before, this is a great place to start. McDermid is pretty well known these days since the TV drama 'Wire in the Blood' featuring Robson Green as the criminal profiler Tony Hill became popular. Tony Hill was created by McDermid and this is the first in a string of books featuring him. The novel of 'The Wire in the Blood' follows straight on from this, and I'd recommend readings 'The Mermaids Singing' first, as you get a good deal of background information on the character as he is introduced.

'The Mermaids Singing', winner of the CWA Gold Dagger Award for Fiction, is set in the northern (and fictional) town of Bradfield where four men have been found tortured and killed. The city is in a panic and so the police bring in clinical psychologist Tony Hill to help catch the murderer. This is the first time Hill has been involved in an active police investigation, as he has previously spent his time studying killers who have already been caught.

Hill is a complex character who is very well portrayed, with all his strengths and weaknesses revealed for us by McDermid. He is a truly three dimensional character who we become quite involved with as readers. His own sexual problems and his anxiety over them make him seem very human. The tentative flirtation between him and Inspector Carol Jordan is nicely conveyed as well.

One of the things that makes this book original is the fact that the reader is allowed into the mind of the killer. At the beginning of every chapter, we are shown a few pages from the killer's journal. These can be disturbing, but they are an interesting device and very well written, and they give the book that little bit of edge.

I won't say too much about the plot so as not to ruin it for you, but it is exciting and well developed and definately worth a read. Personally I prefer the second in the series, 'The Wire in the Blood', but this is great to set you up for that.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly Recommended and Absorbing Read, 5 Oct. 2012
By 
Brett H (Brighton) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Mermaids Singing (Paperback)
I have only started reading Val McDermid's books of late, and this is the third I have been through. Certainly what I have read so far could be categorised as somewhere between very good and excellent and The Mermaids Singing is no exception. I was quite surprised to see that it was first published as long as 17 years ago, as it does not betray its age in any way.

This book is notable in that it is the first outing for Tony Hill, consulting psychologist and of TV's Wire in the Blood fame. Also debuting is Carol Jordan, of the local Bradfield police who is his enduring, but normally unrequited romantic interest. There are a lot of serial murderer crime thrillers around these days, and far too many of them are so bizarre in terms of the murderer's methods that they are frankly ludicrous. However, here the author strikes a good balance in that the methods are certainly bizarre, but not totally unbelievable.

It is an interesting introduction for Tony, as, at times it appears that in his own way he is as mentally damaged as the perpetrator. This was clearly toned down somewhat in subsequent books and the TV series. This makes for an absorbing read. It is tightly and unambiguously plotted and you feel the author had it all planned out so there is no waffling or rambling. A highly recommended read.
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