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by Val McDermid
HarperCollins, September 2008
384 pages
18.99 GBP
ISBN: 0007243294

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Val McDermid's back in her native Scotland for A DARKER DOMAIN and has a new lead character in the driving seat.

DI Karen Pirie has ruffled a few feathers and has been shunted out to the cold case team where she has unresolved sexual tension in the form of DS Phil Parhatka, and seemingly only the terminally dim DC Jason Murray to help them run the shop.

Karen's not much good at sitting behind a desk and delegating, so when Michelle Gibson comes in to report her father missing after nearly 25 years, she's onto the case like a rat down a drainpipe. Michelle's son Luke desperately needs a bone marrow transplant, and Mick Prentice is her last hope.

And it's a case that is bound to re-open old wounds in the small Fife mining community. Prentice was one of several men to disappear part way through the miners' strike in 1985. It was assumed they were scabs (strike-breakers) and had gone south to the Nottinghamshire coalfields.

Karen's also called in on a case from the same year where the daughter of millionaire business man Sir Broderick Grant was killed and her son never seen again after a botched kidnap rescue. Investigative journalist Bel Richmond finds a sinister clue in modern-day Tuscany.

The book conjures up a particularly vivid sense of place as it moves between Scotland and Italy and between the bleak days of the miners' strike and the present day. A DARKER DOMAIN isn't up there, though, with David Peace's GB84 or Reginald Hill's UNDER WORLD when it comes

to capturing the bleakness and the legacy of those dark days of the strike.

Unusually for McDermid, who is a consummate storyteller, the story is a bit of a plod. There are no chapters, so it's hard for her to vary the pace this is done via flashbacks, but they are simply part of the ongoing narrative. So just as she picks up pace with one thread, the reader is jolted 25 years back or shunted off into someone else's head. This becomes most problematic at the end when there's a shocking and sudden murder which feels glossed over all too quickly in a far too tidy ending.

If this is to be a new series, it has lots of possibilities. McDermid's got some strong characters and much to resolve in the form of Karen and Phil and the control freak ACC Simon Lees there's a good running gag with Karen doing dumb insolence every time she's hauled up in front of the boss.

Reviewed by Sharon Wheeler, September 2008

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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