's CBR6 Review No:6

A Wee Fat Woman Crammed into a Marks and Spencer Suit

A Darker Domain by Val McDermid (Buy on amazon.com)


A Darker Domain

I’m a big fan of both the TV version of Wire in the Blood and the books that preceded it so when this Val McDermid novel crossed my path, I didn’t hesitate.  I don’t know if this is a stand alone or the second in a series featuring DI Karen Pirie but it was a solid story with a great setting and some interesting history involving the Miners’ Strike in the 1980’s.

It’s a classic cold case.  A young woman shows up at the police station to report her father as a missing person—22 years after he disappeared.  When Mick Prentice fails to come home one night in 1984, everyone in the village assumes that he has broken ranks and gone with some other local men to cross the picket lines at a mine further south.  Misha and her mom, Jenny, take the flack for his betrayal but every month a small amount of money comes in the mail.  It isn’t until two decades later when Misha’s son develops a rare genetic disorder and needs a bone marrow transplant that Misha tries to track her father down and discovers that he did not go down to Nottingham with the other strikebreakers.

As DI Karen Pirie begins to look into the case with her partner, Phil Parhatka, another mystery from the past is thrown on her desk—this one involves the kidnapping and murder of  Catriona Grant, the daughter of a prominent Scottish businessman, and the disappearance of her son, Adam, also back in 1984.

The narrative swings in and out from different character’s perspectives and back and forth between the present and the past.  Though not quite as compelling as Tony Hill, DI Pirie is a realistic combination of smart, determined, and not a super model.   I have to appreciate a mystery where the female detective thinks of herself as “a wee fat woman crammed into a Marks and Spencer suit” but that doesn’t slow her down in any meaningful way and McDermid doesn’t make her a sexless creature.  Though the shifts between eras and characters were a little distracting at times, the overall narrative tone was sure-footed and compelling.  Everything clicked together at the end in an intriguing but satisfying way and if DI Pirie has had other adventures, I’m interested in tracking them down.

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