Top positive review
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Outstanding crime fiction
on 6 September 2009
I haven't read a Val McDermid book before but was most impressed by this. While there is clearly a cast of characters here that have been built up through a series of other adventures, this doesn't prevent the reader from soon picking up the personalities and the relationships lying between them.
At first sight, there's nothing unusual about the cold cases being investigated by DCI Carol Jordan and her elite investigation unit - only difficulties and impediments put in her way be a new Chief Constable who wants to shake things up a bit in the Bradfield police force. Soon however their talents are called upon in the case of a serial killer case who after much preparation and grooming of young teenagers on an Internet Social Networking site, has just started to draw his victims in and execute them, his motives a complete mystery. With profiler Tony Hill out-of-bounds under the new regime and having some personal issues of his own to deal with, Carol Jordan and her team need to be a bit more creative than usual.
The serial killer element may not initially appear to be particularly original, nor the manner in which the police procedural elements of the investigation are clearly laid out, but McDermid's writing makes this compelling reading, taking the time to lay-out the personalities of the victims, their parents and their lives, and making the damage done so much more intense than that of anonymous discovered mutilated bodies. The police procedural aspects are brilliantly drawn, showing the political pressures as well as the barriers in place that prevent effective cooperation between police forces of different regions (the author in the process nailing regional characteristics well). All this just adds to the intensity of the drama.
Added to all that, you have the personal lives of the police officers, investigators and profilers, which is not a colourful add-on, but can be clearly seen to have an impact on how they think and operate - even minor and secondary characters are well-observed and similarly well-drawn, and there are a few bombshells dropped here and there. This wide cast of characters and what turns out to be a different serial killer angle are all brought together by McDermid with apparent effortless ease. The investigators may be frustratingly slower than the reader to make the connections and work out the identity of the killer, but that only adds to the tension in a terrific crime novel that captures the complexity of the criminal act as much as the political and personal issues that have to be just as carefully navigated.