When a teenage joyrider crashes a stolen car and ends up in a coma, a routine DNA test reveals a connection to an unsolved murder from twenty-two years before. Finding the answer to the cold case should be straightforward. But it’s as twisted as the DNA helix itself.
Meanwhile, Karen finds herself irresistibly drawn to another mystery that she has no business investigating, a mystery that has its roots in a terrorist bombing two decades ago. And again, she finds that nothing is as it seems.
There are actually two unsolved murder cases and one suspicious death case happening in this tightly plotted novel by Val McDermid. Past and present collide for Detective Chief Inspector Karen Pirie, head of Police Scotland’s Historic Cases Unit, as she attempts to solve the puzzle of how the DNA of a 17 year old teenage boy involved in a car crash could be connected to a 22 year old unsolved murder. Sound intriguing? It certainly had my attention.
That case alone was enough to pique my interest but then Karen also finds herself being pulled into another mystery- the supposed suicide of Gabriel Abbott. Karen finds herself wondering about his death which occurred 20 years after his mother and 3 others were murdered by what was believed to be a terrorist bombing of their small jet plane. Could the deaths somehow be connected although they’re separated by a 20 year time gap? No one else seems to question Gabriel’s death as it’s been ruled a suicide. Karen, however, is not one to turn her head away when there’s the possibility of several suspicious deaths being somehow connected.
This is my first Val McDermid novel…I know where have I been?….and I have to talk about Karen Pirie for a minute. This character has quickly become one of my favorites in crime fiction. Stepping into this series at this point (this is book 4) I didn’t know anything about Karen or her life before but Val McDermid has done an outstanding job weaving Karen’s previous life into this story, so for those of us new to the series, I still felt like I understood her and had a handle on what led her to her current state of being. You see, Karen is still grieving the loss of Phil, her partner on the force and the love of her life and I felt for her, especially as she wondered the streets at night in an attempt to make herself tired. I felt her sadness as well as her strength and determination to keep going. I liked her banter with Jason, who wasn’t the sharpest tack in the toolbox, but was fiercely loyal and devoted to her. I liked her witty nickname for her boss. And I liked the compassion she showed to the Syrian refuges she befriended on her nightly excursions in the dark. This in itself was an interesting subplot. Not only did Karen feel real to me, I also felt like other characters – Jason, Jimmy, River, Giorsal, even the swarmy Alan Noble – were real people and that is because of the superb characterization and writing on the part of the author. For me, one of the best compliments I can give is to say the characters felt like real people. That, and the fact that I couldn’t figure out this intricately plotted puzzle!
This story moved at light-speed for me until about the last 20 percent at which point I felt it started to drag somewhat. I’m not sure if it was the tying up of all the threads and loose ends, the details, etc but I felt different about the last part. Not to say I wasn’t happy with how it all came to pass, I was, I just felt that it got somewhat bogged down at the end. As I said, I didn’t have it figured out so that was a surefire plus in my book. I will most definitely be picking up the next Karen Pirie book as she is a character I’m happy to keep following wherever she goes! If you enjoy crime fiction with realistic characters this is one you’ll want to grab tomorrow when it’s released. Even if you’re new to the series this is one in which you can jump right in and feel rest assured you won’t be lost.
**Many thanks to Netgalley and Grove Atlantic for providing me this copy in exchange for an honest review.**