Category Archives: Val McDermid

Review: Still Life by Val McDermid

Title: Still Life by Val McDermid
Inspector Karen Pirie Series Book Six
Publisher: Atlantic Monthly Press
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Suspense
Length: 436 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley


Val McDermid is the award-winning, international bestselling author of more than thirty novels and has been hailed as Britain’s Queen of Crime. In Still Life, McDermid returns to her propulsive series featuring DCI Karen Pirie, who finds herself investigating the shadowy world of forgery, where things are never what they seem.

When a lobster fisherman discovers a dead body in Scotland’s Firth of Forth, Karen is called into investigate. She quickly discovers that the case will require untangling a complicated web―including a historic disappearance, art forgery, and secret identities―that seems to orbit around a painting copyist who can mimic anyone from Holbein to Hockney. Meanwhile, a traffic crash leads to the discovery of a skeleton in a suburban garage. Needless to say, Karen has her plate full. Meanwhile, the man responsible for the death of the love of her life is being released from prison, reopening old wounds just as she was getting back on her feet.

Tightly plotted and intensely gripping, Still Life is Val McDermid at her best, and new and longtime readers alike will delight in the latest addition to this superior series.


Still Life by Val McDermid is an enthralling police procedural which features two distinct mysteries to solve. Although this newest release is the sixth mystery in The Inspector Karen Pirie series, it can be read as a standalone.

Head of the Historic Cases Unit Detective Chief Inspector Karen Pirie and her co-worker Detective Constable Jason Murray are working to identify the skeletal remains found in the back of a camper van. The bones were discovered following the homeowner’s death so they have to search for answers elsewhere. Karen and Jason discover the former owner’s ex-partner has also apparently has vanished. They are getting close to locating her when Karen is assigned to another case that is connected to a cold case she reviewed a few years earlier. So Jason is on his own as he tracks down their suspect.

Detective  Chief Inspector Charlie Todd and Detective Sergeant Daisy Mortimer’s newest case is solving the murder of a man whose body was found in the Firth of Forth.  The victim appears to be a French citizen who performs with a jazz band.  Closer inspection reveals that Paul Allard is really James Auld, who vanished ten years ago.  He was the suspect in the possible murder of his brother Iain, who also disappeared without a trace.  A few years earlier, Karen reviewed Iain’s case so her boss thinks she would be better suited to lead the investigation.

Karen and Daisy’s investigation takes them to Paris, where they unearth puzzling details. Talking to the detective first assigned to Iain’s case sheds no no light on the case. However, an old friend of James provides a vital piece of information that takes their investigation in a stunning direction. Armed with new details, Karen and Daisy go to Dublin in search of the final pieces that will hopefully solve this twist-filled case.

Still Life is a multilayered mystery that is well-written and engrossing. The two cases are both very intriguing and the investigations move at a brisk pace.  Karen is rather pleased that Jason is taking a bit more initiative.  Karen is also very impressed with Daisy who is a brilliant investigator. Val McDermid brings this marvelous mystery to an interesting close since this novel takes place in early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. Readers will be eager to see if the next installment in The Inspector Karen Pirie series will continue to be affected by the still on-going health crisis.

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Filed under Atlantic Monthly Press, Contemporary, Inspector Karen Pirie Series, Mystery, Rated B, Review, Still Life, Suspense, Val McDermid

Review: How the Dead Speak by Val McDermid

Title: How the Dead Speak by Val McDermid
Tony Hill and Carol Jordan Series Book Eleven
Publisher: Atlantic Monthly Press
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Suspense
Length: 416 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley


Val McDermid is an award-winning, crime-writing powerhouse, and now she returns to her explosive, thrilling series featuring psychological profiler Tony Hill and ex-DCI Carol Jordan in her latest How The Dead Speak

With Tony behind bars and Carol finally out of road as a cop, he’s finding unexpected outlets for his talents in jail and she’s joined forces with a small informal group of lawyers and forensics experts looking into suspected miscarriages of justice. But they’re doing it without each other; being in the same room at visiting hour is too painful to contemplate. Meanwhile, construction is suddenly halted on the redevelopment of an orphanage after dozens of skeletons are found buried in the grounds. Forensic examination reveals they date from between twenty and forty years ago, when the nuns were running their repressive regime. But then a different set of skeletons are discovered in a far corner, young men from as recent as ten years ago.

When newly promoted DI Paula McIntyre discovers that one of the male skeletons is that of a killer who is supposedly alive and behind bars—and the subject of one of Carol’s miscarriage investigations—it brings Tony and Carol irresistibly into each other’s orbit once again. A shocking, masterfully plotted novel that will leave readers breathless, How The Dead Speak is McDermid at her best and a can’t miss read long-time fans and new readers alike.


How the Dead Speak by Val McDermid is an intriguing police procedural. This eleventh installment in the Tony Hill and Carol Jordan series can be read as a standalone.

Psychologist and profiler Tony Hill is now serving his prison sentence and trying to find his footing in jail. He is working on a book while trying to come up with a way to make a difference behind bars. Tony is dismayed when his mum Vanessa pays him a visit and he is forced to comply with her request. Unfortunately this means asking former DCI and long time friend Carol Jordan to investigate something for Vanessa.

Carol Jordan is, like Tony, trying to decide what comes next now she is no longer a police officer. She is surprised by how much she likes working with her hands and she is hard at work on a carpentry project. She is also finally making a concerted effort to get treatment for her PTSD. Carol is surprised when defence solicitor Bronwen Scott shows up with an unexpected proposition. Not willing to fully commit to  Bronwen’s proposal,  Carol does agree to give it serious consideration. She is also quite dismayed by Vanessa’s visit and she reluctantly begins looking into Tony’s mum’s situation.

Detective Inspector Paula McIntyre is now working in the newly reformed ReMIT under DCI Ian Rutherford. She and her fellow team members are rather flummoxed when Rutherford forces his way into a case that is not exactly their typical investigation.  A construction crew has recently made a grisly discovery on the grounds of a former convent.  A cadaver dog makes another shocking find and McIntyre and her fellow detectives are now working to uncover who is responsible for the gruesome murders.

How the Dead Speak is a clever, well-executed mystery. The cast of characters is richly developed with realistic shortcomings and enviable strengths. Tony and Carol continue to grow and evolve as they adapt to their new situations. DI McIntyre is a brilliant investigator who keenly feels Tony’s and Carol’s absence as she interviews witnesses and suspects. The various story arcs are interesting and the investigations move at an even pace.  Val McDermid brings the novel to an exciting and satisfying  conclusion. Old and new fans are sure to enjoy this newest addition to the Tony Hill and Carol Jordan series.

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Filed under Atlantic Monthly Press, Contemporary, How the Dead Speak, Mystery, Rated B+, Review, Suspense, Tony Hill and Carol Jordan Series, Val McDermid

Review: Broken Ground by Val McDermid

Title: Broken Ground by Val McDermid
Inspector Karen Pirie Series Book Five
Publisher: Atlantic Monthly Press
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery
Length: 432 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley


Internationally bestselling author Val McDermid is one of our finest crime writers, and her gripping, masterfully plotted novels have garnered millions of readers from around the globe. In Broken Ground, cold case detective Karen Pirie faces her hardest challenge yet.

Six feet under in a Highland peat bog lies Alice Somerville’s inheritance, buried by her grandfather at the end of World War II. But when Alice finally uncovers it, she finds an unwanted surprise—a body with a bullet hole between the eyes. Meanwhile, DCI Pirie is called in to unravel a case where nothing is quite as it seems. And as she gets closer to the truth, it becomes clear that not everyone shares her desire for justice. Or even the idea of what justice is.

An engrossing, twisty thriller, Broken Ground reaffirms Val McDermid’s place as one of the best crime writers of her generation.


Broken Ground by Val McDermid is a very clever mystery that features two cold cases which are getting a second look by investigators in the Historic Case Unit. This fifth installment in the Inspector Karen Pirie series can easily be read as a standalone.

Detective Chief Inspector Karen Pirie, her trusted underling, Detective Jason Murray and newcomer to the unit, Detective Sergeant Gerry McCartney are investigating a series of rapes that occurred thirty years earlier.  A new development with one of the victims is the impetus for reopening the case and thanks to Murray’s research, they now have possible suspects to question. However, the discovery of a murdered man in a peat bog means Pirie has another case to investigate since evidence proves the victim’s death occurred in the distant past. Along with the two new enquiries, Karen is suspicious of DS McCartney’s assignment to the unit by Assistant Chief Constable Ann Markie.  Juggling  two cases and interference from Markie, will Karen and the rest of the team unmask the perpetrators of the long unsolved crimes?

Karen is still mourning the loss of her significant other but she works hard to keep her personal life from interfering in her professional duties. She is dedicated to providing answers to the families who have been left to wonder what happened to their loved ones. Tenacious and hardworking, Karen is a veteran detective with a sharp intellect and keen instincts.

Karen and Jason mainly focus on solving the case of the person found in the peat bog. The circumstances of the discovery are also quite intriguing. Although they quickly identify the victim, the biggest question that needs to be answered is why this person was at the scene of the crime. Karen and Jason meticulously research each lead they find and follow where the evidence leads. Jason is gaining confidence and he proves to quite adept at uncovering obscure information.  Once they exhaust the leads about the victim, Karen turns her attention to their suspect in hopes of building an airtight case.

With her attention on the more recent murder, Karen puts McCartney tracking down the possible suspects in their cold case. As his resentment towards Karen grows, she becomes certain that Markie has an ulterior motive for assigning him the HCU. How far will McCartney go to harm Karen’s career? And will Markie’s personal feelings for Pirie interfere with the ongoing investigations?

Broken Ground is an engrossing police procedural with a captivating setting and interesting characters. The main storyline is engrossing with flashbacks that provide compelling information about the investigation in the present. The secondary story arcs are equally appealing and while the cold cases are solved, Val McDermid leaves a few dangling threads that will leaving readers anxiously awaiting the next novel in the Inspector Karen Pirie series. I truly enjoyed and highly recommend this outstanding police procedural to fans of the genre.


Filed under Atlantic Monthly Press, Broken Ground, Contemporary, Inspector Karen Pirie Series, Mystery, Rated B+, Review, Val McDermid