Sunday 10 October 2021

Guest Review: Trick of the Dark By Val McDermid

When Charlie Flint is sent a mysterious package of cuttings about a brutal murder, it instantly grabs her attention. The murder occurred in the grounds of her old Oxford college - a groom battered to death just hours after his wedding. As his bride and wedding guests sipped champagne, his alleged killers were slipping his bloodstained body into the river.

Charlie doesn't know who sent the package, or why, yet she can't get the crime out of her head. But as she delves deeper, and steps back into the mysterious world of Oxford colleges, she realises that there is much more to this crime than meets the eye...

Review: This is a stand-alone murder mystery, first published in 2010, by the Scottish crime writer Val McDermid. The main protagonist is Dr Charlotte (Charlie) Flint, a forensic psychiatrist who, with time on her hands, is persuaded to dig deeper into a murder case which may, or may not, be linked to other deaths.

The story opens with what appears to be a relatively straightforward murder case, but as readers of crime fiction should know, there are many twists and turns in the narrative. Most of the action is centred around a fictitious Oxford college, which appears to be the author paying homage to her alma mater of St Hilda’s College. Same sex relationships also play a prominent role in the book, although it is the crime investigation that takes precedence. The story moves along at a fast pace, and I found myself wanting to go on to the next chapter to discover what happens next. I thought that this was helped by the narrative sometimes switching from flashback to the present day.

As in a previous crime thriller of hers that I read, the author had researched the various procedures of the criminal justice system very well. I also thought that the different locations were well described, such that I could readily imagine myself being there. I listened to the audio version of the book. If you have a keen ear for different accents, you may be disappointed by the ones attempted by the two narrators, which were adequate without being wholly convincing. I also thought that the ending came quite suddenly, being slightly contrived and with only enough explanation to tie off the most important, but not all, the loose ends. However, these are minor criticisms and should not detract from the enjoyment of a fast paced and intriguing crime thriller.

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