Sunday 21 November 2021

Guest Review: The Skeleton Road By Val McDermid

When a skeleton is discovered hidden at the top of a crumbling, gothic building in Edinburgh, Detective Chief Inspector Karen Pirie is faced with the unenviable task of identifying the bones. As Karen's investigation gathers momentum, she is drawn deeper into a dark world of intrigue and betrayal.

Meanwhile, someone is taking the law into their own hands in the name of justice and revenge -- but when present resentment collides with secrets of the past, the truth is more shocking than anyone could have imagined . . .

An atmospheric, chilling mystery from the number one bestseller.

Review: This is the third book in the Karen Pirie crime thriller series by the author, but it can be read as a standalone. Detective Chief Inspector (DCI) Karen Pirie is head of Police Scotland’s Historic Cases Unit based in Edinburgh. The story begins in 2014 when a human skeleton is discovered hidden on the roof of a derelict building in Edinburgh. Given the age of the remains, and the suspicious circumstances, Karen Pirie and her assistant, Detective Constable (DC) Jason Murray, are called in to investigate. There is a second strand to the book that relates to the aftermath of the conflicts in the Balkans during the 1990s following the breakup of Yugoslavia. Two officials from the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia are attempting to find out who is systematically assassinating suspected war criminals from the region before they can be brought to justice.

The book is set mainly in Scotland, Oxford and Croatia. I found the story to be fast-paced, with several twists. It was also interesting to hear about the history of the different republics of the former Yugoslavia as they sought independence as separate countries in their own right. Val McDermid is very good at describing locations, and having visited some of those mentioned in the book myself, I could feel that I was actually present. I like the down to earth character of DCI Pirie and admire the determined manner in which she pursues her investigations. I should add a care warning that there is a lot of strong language in the book and some descriptions of graphic violence. I listened to the audiobook version and enjoyed the varied accents employed by the narrator, although she struggled with some of the more esoteric ones.

I enjoyed listening to this thrilling story as the detectives pursued their investigations doggedly, building up to the climax. It should appeal to anyone interested in crime fiction, and is another excellent addition to the Karen Pirie series.

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