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Monday, August 3, 2009

A Darker Domain. Val McDermid. Harper (2009)

A very well structured and tightly plotted crime story. When the daughter of one of the wealthiest men in Scotland is killed in a bungled ransom handover and her infant son, also kidnapped, vanishes there is a twenty year gap before a chance discovery in a ruined villa in Italy brings the case back to life. D.I. Kate Pirie from the Cold Case squad is assigned the case and finds that the details are hiding more than they reveal. At the same time D.I. Pirie is investigating the case of a man who disappeared during the miners strike in 1984, the accepted explanation for his disappearance proving to be untrue there uncomfortable questions waiting to be resolved. The reveals are nicely paced and the structure of flashbacks does not impede the narrative in any way, they give it weight and increase the forward motion of the plot.
Val McDermid creates a interesting and varied cast and switches the action between Scotland and Italy, the past and the present with fluid skill. The conflicting interests of the main characters in wishing to bury or uncover the past is developed to considerable dramatic impact. This book engaged me right down to the very satisfying conclusion.
The signal failure in the book was the presence of a stupid male senior police officer who had difficulty with a brighter female subordinate. This addition of a dreary crime fiction staple added nothing to the book and detracted from it when it was shoehorned in. In particular the vibrant exchanges between D.I.Pirie and a truly competent and very powerful male character underlines the limpwristed quality of her interactions with her manager. An annoying blemish on an otherwise gripping thriller.

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