- Hardcover: 416 pages
- Publisher: HarperCollins; First edition edition (7 Jun. 1999)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0002326760
- ISBN-13: 978-0002326766
- Package Dimensions: 23.9 x 16.3 x 3.6 cm
- Average Customer Review: 224 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 603,713 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
A Place of Execution Hardcover – 7 Jun 1999
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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 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, suspensefully, McDermid takes her readers through Bennett's investigation and the trial which 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, skillfully plotted, A Place of Execution suggests how unsettling that knowledge can be. --Vicky Lebeau
'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' MirrorSee all Product description
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There's so much that is very good about this book but I'm afraid the last section set thirty-five years after the main story just didn't hang together for me. It depends on a couple of massive coincidences to bring together the necessary people, and the `solution' felt unconvincing to me for reasons which I can't talk about here without spoiling this for new readers.
So this is a sensitive, thoughtful book with some hard-hitting moments and a sense of righteous anger about it - but while it is very good, it didn't quite make it to 5 stars for me.
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