My resolution to read fewer crime novels made it to the third week, and then I’ve lapsed. Val McDermid is a safe bet, and the bet gets no safer than a Carol Jordan and Tony Hill novel. If you’ve read anything involving the duo before, you’ll know that it’s all a bit messed up, damaged and complicated, and this is no different – although much of the book is taken up with their tentative, tetchy reconciliation. It is also taken up with Jordan being reintegrated into the police service – the special unit she is requested to head up seems partly a device to allow McDermid to bypass a few realities and ‘get the gang back together’. It feels a bit like the start of an A Team episode – get the interviewer; the tech and data geek; the psychologist; the old hand; the young buck. OK, ready to roll!
The crime they are solving almost takes a back seat to all the character-led machinations (including a frankly very dodgy ‘let Carol off the hook for drink driving’ charge), but has a distinct flavour of #MeToo and online trolling about it. The killer, motivated by being ‘let down’ by women, is targeting mouthy, opinionated women who get a profile on social media and articulate strong (normally feminist) views. McDermid has always been adept at keeping her novels current and contemporary, and this is neatly (and at times powerfully) done too.
The stand-out for me, actually, was the IT geek / data hacker character Stacey, who forms (for several reasons) an important part of the story. I think the author was revelling in her character’s power and possibilities, and as a result it was a lot of fun whenever she was on the page. If the special team forms the basis of forthcoming novels, I’d anticipate Stacey taking a starring role.
All in all, somewhat standard fare, but McDermid is still one of the best crime writers out there, and it’s entertaining and enjoyable stuff – although this one does rely more on previous knowledge of Jordan and Hill than other more standalone episodes in the series.