Saturday 26 November 2022

Guest Review: Out of Bounds By Val McDermid

'There are lots of things that ran in families, but murder wasn't one of them . . .'

When a teenage joyrider crashes a stolen car and ends up in a coma, a routine DNA test could be the key to unlocking the mystery of a twenty-year-old murder inquiry. Detective Chief Inspector Karen Pirie is an expert at solving the unsolvable. With each cold case closed, justice is served. So, finding the answer should be straightforward, but it's as twisted as the DNA helix itself.

Meanwhile Karen finds herself irresistibly drawn to another case, one that she has no business investigating. And as she pieces together decades-old evidence, Karen discovers the most dangerous kinds of secrets. Secrets that someone is willing to kill for . . .

Review: This is the fourth book, published in 2016, in the Karen Pirie crime thriller series. It can be read as a standalone, but it does follow on from the third book, so I would recommend reading the series in order. Detective Chief Inspector (DCI) Karen Pirie, head of Police Scotland’s Historic Cases Unit based in Edinburgh, is recovering from a tragic event. The story begins in 2016, when the results of analysis of a blood sample from the teenage driver of a vehicle involved in a serious accident shows what forensic scientists refer to as a familial match to a sample from an undetected rape and murder of a young woman in Glasgow 20 years earlier. This means that the person from whom the material originated was an older, close relative of the driver. This new lead in the cold case gives Karen Pirie and her assistant, Detective Constable (DC) Jason Murray, an opportunity to revisit the original investigation. At around the same time as the road traffic accident, a man is found dead from a gunshot wound in Kinross. It is unclear whether this was a suicide, or something more suspicious. However, when Karen discovers that the man’s mother was among a group of victims murdered by an explosive device 22 years earlier, she takes it upon herself to investigate these two incidents. At the time, in 1994, the explosion was thought to be the work of an Irish terrorist group. However, nobody claimed responsibility for the attack, no arrests were made and the case remained officially undetected. Karen argues that this means that investigation of the explosion falls within her remit, and also that the death of the woman’s son is somehow linked.

The book follows Karen and Jason as they try to unravel the two historic crimes, while also attempting to delve further into the current potential crime. I found it to be fast-paced, with many twists. It is set mainly in Scotland, in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Kinross, and also in London. As in her previous books, I found that the forensic science aspects of the plot were well researched. In addition, Val McDermid is adept at describing locations, and having actually eaten in one of the cafes mentioned in the book, I could picture myself in some of the locations. It was also interesting to discover some of the nuances of the Scottish legal system. In this book, we discover a more vulnerable side to DCI Pirie, but this does not detract from the usual 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. I listened to the audiobook version and, again, thought that the narrator, Cathleen McCarron, brought it to life with her varied voice characterisations.

I enjoyed following the thrilling story as the detectives tried to unravel the various lines of investigation. However, I do have one minor quibble. At the end of the book, it is implied that Karen Pirie has solved the 1996 Glasgow murder case. Indeed, she discusses with an advocate the means of obtaining the evidence that will provide the final piece in the jigsaw. However, I do not believe that the book states explicitly that this has been achieved. Notwithstanding this minor glitch, this book should appeal to anyone interested in crime fiction, and is another excellent addition to the Karen Pirie series.

To order your copy now, just click the link: UK or US

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