Inspector Karen Pirie Series is probably the only one series that I have managed to read in the order of publication and as a devoted fan of cold crime investigation, I believe Val McDermid is exceptional in churning out mysteries one after another.
The publication of Book #6 Still Life is just weeks away and in anticipation, I am just posting the reviews of all the books in the series.
Book # 1 The Distant Echo
Crime fiction at its best, no wonder Val McDermid is considered one of the best in this genre. It’s not a taut thriller but kinda slow paced but one which grows on you and impossible to put down.
Book #2 A Darker Domain
I think Val McDermid is exceptional in creating mysteries that span 20 years or more. Some of her books have been a miss for me but mostly she has always managed to stamp her authority in crime fiction. A Darker Domain is a hit. The suspense building from page 1 about a father who was missing 20 odd years ago is in itself a magical pull. Karen Pirie becomes the central character here but there are different narrators as each and every person adds a piece of the memory and thus moves the story forward. I think this sort of narration brings forth more thrill element if done well and it’s definitely a good technique here.
Book #3 The Skeleton Road
A brilliant piece of work, the Skeleton Road takes us to the Balkan Wars, the history and politics flying out of the pages. Her historic details have always been top-notch, especially in the Karen Pirie series where cold cases comes into play. Karen Pirie is a well-developed character, it’s so endearing to see her as humane, a bit on the fatter side and not being developed like typical jaw-dropping heroines, it feels more real. The story revolves around the age-old eye-for-an eye revenge drama and even though I did guess the killer from the beginning it didn’t dampen the joy until the last few pages with the accident. I was so hoping for a different ending for Karen’s sake.
Book #4 Out of Bounds
Book 4 in the Karen Pirie’s cold case series and I began with a heavy heart. The opening chapter itself causes a plummeting heart but then to know about the devastating loss in Karen’s life, phew that tore me up. Val McDermid is exceptional in this genre, especially in a character like Karen Pirie who has got the determination to provide answers that may lie dormant without any peace for victim’s families for years together. And her character is such that one can’t help but be charmed, she’s probably the 1st police officer whose looks are not extraordinary and not perfectly sculpted and for someone who is not handling crimes in the real time, her doggedness really pays off.
There are 2 cases being handled by Karen and the very loyal Mint and both of them have been handled with finesse. Adding the plight of Syrian refugees in Scotland was another bonus. It begs us to see how much they have lost and still retain a basic humanity inside.
Book #5 Broken Ground
In book #5, Detective Karen Pirie and her loyal constable Jason “Mint” Murray have not one but 3 cases running in parallel. In addition to the cold cases, Karen also gets involved with domestic/murder case that is a typical example of he said/she said.
Karen is overcoming her grief and is slowly working towards life; her nocturnal wanderings have decreased but things in the work front are still a pain. With the change of the ACC who is a female, Karen expects many things but lands up totally with something else especially in the form of a spy in her office who manages to disrupt her usual working methods.
The mystery part of the book is revealed earlier but how Karen manages to overcome the obstacles in bringing a 20-yr old case to court is what makes it a very fascinating read. Val McDermid has already proved her mettle in this genre and this Karen Pirie book just reinforces it.