Year 4 / Book 40: A Darker Domain

40) A Darker Domain by Val McDermid

Val McDermid is probably best known for her Tony Hill & Carol Jordan books, but I think I prefer Karen Pirie, the independent, funny female detective who features again here in A Darker Domain. It is her character and believability which drives forward this complex and at times slightly far-fetched tale of a kidnapped heiress, a disappearing miner and a journalist going round Italy.

Where it is at its best is in the depictions of the impact of the miners’ strike on the community, friendships and neighbourhoods in the mid-80s, all of which is highly believable and compelling. The present day storylines feel a bit more forced, with a sort of Sir Tom Hunter-esque Scottish millionaire verging consistently on parody, and an archaeology friend who can magically rustle up tens of students to investigate a cave at a moment’s notice.

However unlikely that all feels (and it is tied up exceptionally neatly), McDermid’s understanding of pace and plot is as keen as ever; combined with Pirie’s gallows humour and sharp mind, that kept me gripped right till the end. Not necessarily her best, but a really interesting and diverting addition to her work.

Score: 7/10

BUY IT NOW: A Darker Domain (Detective Karen Pirie, Book 2)

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