123. A Darker Domain (Val McDermid)

Monday, August 29, 2011
As you know, I don’t read a lot of fiction but every once in a while I get a hankering for a great story to sink my teeth into. A fan of crime dramas, especially those from the UK (they’ve got the murder mystery down pat), it was only a matter of time before I came across Wire in the Blood. Having enjoyed following the sleuthing of psychologist Dr. Tony Hill, it was to creator Val McDermid’s novels that I looked to recently when I felt the urge for a little slice of fiction. I wanted to experience something one of her stand alone novels so I opted for A Darker Domain.

DI Karen Pirie, head of the local cold case squad in Fife, Scotland, receives a visit from a daughter who wants to report her father missing. Nothing overly unusual or out of the ordinary, except that Mick Prentice went missing 20 years ago, during the height of the Miners’ strikes. Always interested in trying to solve a cold case, DI Pirie dives into the investigation. At first it looks like the man headed south to work as a scab at a mine that was still open but the deeper she looks, the less likely it seems.

When an investigative journalist uncovers new evidence in the mysterious death of a beautiful Scottish heiress, Pirie is assigned to look into the case. The woman was killed in a botched kidnapping attempt and her infant son disappeared along with her captors. The only obvious connection between the two cases? They occurred within a month of each other.

It won’t surprise many readers to learn that the two cases are intertwined, but there are still plenty of twists and turns along the way. Flipping back and forth between Scotland and Italy, as well as switching flawlessly from the present day to the 1980s, McDermid’s story is entertaining and intriguing as the stories slowly merge together. I came across the following review which summed up my thoughts on the novel as a whole:

The first two-thirds of the book are gripping. Val McDermid is a superb storyteller and her account of the miner's strike is harrowing, moving and authentic. The novel is unfalteringly sure-footed with the many switches between the cases, time, and people's perspectives. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I felt that in the last part of the book the tension was not maintained quite to the pitch of the earlier parts, perhaps partly because I had guessed what was going on in both stories, and the ending is a little rushed. However, there are a few surprises still in store …

It all fell apart for me when one of the main characters conveniently leaves behind a letter explaining … well … everything. While it makes some sense, in terms of what was happening in the novel at the time, it just felt sloppy and too easy. All in all though, I really enjoyed the book and would gladly pick up another of Val McDermid’s novels.


Ben Ditty said...

Intriguing. I will have to read this :) I'm really interested in writing a mystery myself.

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