Tag Archives: Val McDermid review

If I Told You That, I’d Have to Kill Myself…

Val McDermid has taken the somewhat unusual step of adding a surprise ending to the surprise ending of her latest novel.  But more of that in a moment: I started the week by listening to the latest radio adaptation of ‘Rebus’.  Fleshmarket Close is a novel I know fairly well, and so far (this was just episode 1) it is excellently done.  Except for one thing: they have made Siobhan Clarke Scottish!  This is just plain wrong.  As anyone knows who has read the books, one of the main features of Clarke is her Englishness, the fact that she has to struggle to be accepted not only as a woman in CID but as a Sassenach in Scotland.  So that spoilt it somewhat for me as all the way through I was shouting ‘Siobhan is English!’ at the radio.

Annoying.

However that was more than compensated for by discovering Val McDermid’s latest in the library.  ‘Insidious Intent’ which I believe is a quotation from T S Eliot (yes, google confirms that as I thought it’s from  Prufrock:

http://www.shmoop.com/love-song-alfred-prufrock/stanza-1-summary.html)

is the latest in the Carol Jordan series.  I know I blogged about the TV adaptations (Wire in the Blood) a while back, complaining that you wouldn’t know Carol Jordan was the main character in the books as Tony Hill (her friend and sidekick) completely takes over; in fact you could be forgiven for thinking it was the Robson Green show:

https://lizardyoga.wordpress.com/2013/10/10/women-on-the-verge-of-a-tv-series/

McDermid’s is a world largely run by women and in Insidious Intent she has upped her game to a new level of quantum entanglement (hang on, that’s a thing isn’t it?  Let’s ask the oracle.  If you have two quanta with a common origin and you measure one they will both be in the same state.  Thanks, oracle.  Not sure how that helps us here, but still…) anyway, in this latest novel we catch up once again with Jordan and Hill, now sharing a converted barn (though not in the biblical sense) while Jordan gets over the trauma of seeing her brother and sister-in-law murdered and goes cold turkey on the alcoholism which nearly ruined her career.

Tony Hill is something of a redeemed character – product of a cold and abusive mother and an absent father, he has reinvented himself, partly through police work and partly through his relationship with Carol Jordan.  This relationship is tested to its limits and beyond as REmit, the new murder unit headed up by Jordan, handles its first case: the case of The Wedding Killer.  A serial murderer picks women up at weddings and later kills them; clever and forensically aware, he outwits the police until the very end.

And here’s the thing.  This is a new novel; released just this summer and with an ending that is bound to stun all but the most Sherlockian of readers.  I certainly didn’t see it coming: I sat there saying ‘Oh, my God!’ for about five minutes and it was fully ten before I could bring myself to say anything else.  But eventually I turned the page to see a note from the author asking readers not to give away the ending.  Quite right, too – there’s far too much of this sort of thing; not only in blogs, reviews and on social media but often from the publishers themselves.  It’s like film trailers which show you everything, or TV programmes that finish with what’s going to happen in the next episode.  I don’t want to know!!!  I’ll watch it next week, thank you very much – and I’ll thank you not to spoil it.

Enough.  So nothing will induce me to give away the ending to ‘Insidious Intent’ because if I told you that, I’d have to kill myself.

Kirk out

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Review of Val McDermid’s ‘Star-Struck’

I read this over the weekend and enjoyed it a lot, though I have to say it’s very different from her police-based novels.  The word ‘smart’ could have been invented for her heroine Kate Brannigan, just as the word ‘soap’ could have been invented for Coronation Street: however the soap featured in the novel is, according to the disclaimer, emphatically NOT Coronation Street; * nor is it any other soap known to mankind.

Yeah, right.  It’s just a series set in the North where characters meet in the local pub and call each other ‘chuck’ as though their lives depended on it.

The style of narration of this book deliberately – and slightly tongue-in-cheek – apes the smart-arse, wise-cracking style of the traditional private eye.  (I’ll never forget the line in one such film, ‘I was gonna kiss her with every lip on my face’.)  The beginning of the book in particular bristles with such sentences:

She crossed the room slower than a three-toed sloth

He thought he heard a bottle of Pils calling his name – sounds more like a crate shouting its head off

He screwed his face up like a man eating a piccallilli sandwich.

He tried to look innocent.  I’ve seen hunter-killer submarines give it a better shot.

Various plots interweave in this story: death-threats to a star of the soap; the mysterious killing of an astrologer, the leaking of soap storylines and the activities of a friend of Brannigan’s which are just the wrong side of legal.  I just about kept up with them as she is not quite as complex as Ian Rankin (and not quite as good, though that’s barely a criticism since Rankin is the master of the genre).  Brannigan’s personal life, a relationship with a man called Richard who has his own house and his own life, is quite semi-detached.  This befits the genre I guess – personal relationships always coming second to work – but I wondered whether that distance was down to McDermid’s inability to portray a heterosexual relationship from the inside.

* A friend of mine used to say the theme tune to Corrie sounded like a chorus groaning ‘He-ere we go again!’ as a million grannies lower themselves into armchairs to watch.

So I enjoyed this book – though not as much as her others which focus on the police – sitting outside and turning the pages under the sunshade as the garden was baking yesterday.  Mark ventured a toe out of the door.  ‘Blimey, that sun’s hot,’ he said.

‘Don’t touch it then,’ I quipped.

Oh, how we laughed.

Oh, and yes – we haven’t had to wait long for another ‘weather-disaster’ story: apparently the swifts have given up on Britain and gone back to Africa.  The BBC made it sound like some kind of economic disinvestment, as though a delegation of insect-eaters had come to a business convention and gone away disgusted: somewhat appropriate, as the next guest, their economics editor, announced that outside of the two world wars, we are in ‘the worst recession in a hundred years’.  Now, no disrespect to anyone who’s suffering (and we’re suffering as much as anyone) but that is utter bollocks.  What about the 1930’s?  Even the early eighties were worse than now, I’m sure of it.

What do you think?

Definitely, right?

Today I shall be mostly – trying to recover from a bad night.

Kirk out

PS I have had a couple of emails from the people at St Peter’s Edmonton – apparently our parents are still remembered there and they pray for them once a year.  They don’t have any photos of the vicarage at the moment as it suffered some damage and is being done up, but she will send me some when it’s finished.  She also remembers John and Carol Dixon, who we used to go and visit in (I think) St Alban’s.  Apparently John died recently.

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Pining for the Fields

I know you’re all dying to hear what I’ve been reading: well, since going away I’ve read ‘The Uncommon Reader’ by Alan Bennett; ‘Spies’ by Michael Frayn, both of which I’d read before, and a Val McDermid which I hadn’t.  I found the Val McDermid in a bookshop in Yarmouth selling new books for 90p (‘Yes, 90p!’) each.  Bankrupt stock, I assume – and since they had a further special offer of 3 for £2.25 I bought two others, one Faber and Faber by an author I didn’t know and one other which escapes me at the moment.  ‘Ah, so people do buy by publisher,’ commented Mark, causing the bookseller to smile.  From the bookshop we went to Yarmouth Market and bought sherbet lemons from a very surly Italian who claimed I’d asked for ‘sugar lemons’ which they did not have.  He didn’t like it when I contradicted him.  ‘The customer is always right,’ I commented to Mark.  Yarmouth is OK once you get away from the front, which is one long line of flashing lights: there are some good shops though sadly the best little alleyways are full of closed-down premises: then there’s the historic South Quay, always referred to as the ‘Historic South Quay’ lest you should be in any doubt that it is – well, Historic.  It may be Historic but it didn’t look terribly so: it would have been interesting to visit some of the museums and find out more but instead we found a lovely cafe there where we spent so much time that we were too late to go to the Nelson Museum.  And so the long walk home, along the road as we’d come via the beach (sand, pebbles and dunes higher up) and through a succession of formal gardens only to be caught in a thunderstorm which soaked us to the skin.

http://www.great-yarmouth.co.uk/things-to-do/South-Quay.aspx

The caravan itself was good: three bedrooms, a shower and living-room area with dining-table, on a well-appointed site with swimming-pool (we went every day) and flumes (great fun), restaurant/bar with pool tables (Daniel played astonishingly well, I recovered my previous form; but Mark seemed to think he was on whites instead of yellows) and the site just a dyke away from the beach.  Another day we walked along the dunes where there was a good variety of plants, also some fungi.

But the books!  Yes, the Val McDermid: I was happy to find one of hers I hadn’t read and basically devoured this one in about 24 hours.  Called The Torment of Others’, it’s a sexual serial killer story.  There are several red herrings and I didn’t guess the real culprit but when it was revealed I’m not entirely sure I bought it: though a good plot twist I’m not certain it totally works.  But the story carries you along well enough for that not to matter.  Or not much.

The Michael Frayn I’ve read before: it’s very reminiscent of ‘The Go-Between’ – you might almost say derivative – and has all of the ponderousness of that novel’s narrative.  In the end I kept thinking, ‘oh, for god’s sake, get on with it!’ and couldn’t help thinking that this was really a novella stretched out to novel length.  It’s about two boys spying on a woman during the war and misunderstanding what they’re seeing.  Still, in spite of the pace it’s worth a read for the gripping narrative in some passages and the suppressed menace in the character of the woman’s husband.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2012/jun/08/guardian-bookclub-spies-michael-frayn

And so back on the coach where one of the sights on the way home was a boat sailing through the fields.  We did not take a photo since the camera is apparently just for keeping in a bag, not actually for using.  Perhaps Mark thinks it will ward off the evil eye.

Kirk out

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