Friday, November 06, 2009

A Darker Domain by Val McDermid

Title: A Darker Domain
Author: Val McDermid
ISBN: 978-0-06-168898-0, Harper Collins, 2009
Genre: Police Procedural
Rating: A

First Line: The voice is soft, like the darkness that encloses them.

It's another day in Fife, Scotland, and Detective Inspector Karen Pirie--newly appointed head of the Cold Case Review Team-- needs something to sink her teeth into. When a woman comes in to report her father as missing (he was last seen way back in 1984) and gives a few more details, Pirie decides to look into it. It has all the markings of a long shot, and a long shot is something she can't resist.

She and her partner, Detective Sergeant Phil Parhatka, have barely begun to look for Mick Prentice when Pirie's superior officer has her drop everything and rush to the estate of Sir Broderick Maclennan Grant. Back in 1985, the mogul's daughter and grandson were kidnapped. A botched ransom drop left his daughter, Catriona, dead and his grandson, Adam, in the hands of the kidnappers never to be heard from again. New information has come to light in the Maclennan case, and now Pirie has two cold cases to solve, for she's not about to stop looking for Mick Prentice.

McDermid has been one of my favorite mystery writers since I read A Place of Execution. This book did not disappoint. Pirie and her partner work very well together, and I'd love to see more books centered around these two. As the information on both cases is teased loose, it's told in a series of flashbacks, which let me become familiar with the characters' voices and behavior without confusing the storyline.

A Darker Domain also brought home a little known (to me) period of British history-- of Margaret Thatcher, the unions, the coal miners and the strikes. Of men and families starving, the betrayal of the unions, and the excessive force used by the police. McDermid, whose own family struggled to survive these times, didn't present all this information in one vast history lesson, but through the lives and voices of her characters.

Although both cold cases came together in such a way that strained credulity a bit, I still enjoyed this story and especially the character of Karen Pirie. I do hope I'll see more of her.

[Source: Paperback Swap.]


  1. I really enjoy mysteries that give historical insight, too, and show how the past affects the now. This one sounds like a good 'un.

  2. I'll look out for this one as I like cold case stories for some reason. McDermid is one of those authors I sort of 'forgot' I liked as I started expanding my reading - hate it when that happens

  3. This sounds interesting. I haven't read anything by this author although I have heard of him. I like a good crime/thriller every now and then. Thanks for the review :)

  4. Sounds good! I've been wanting to read her for a while now. I'm hoping I can get to her in the new year.

  5. I've have had a couple of Val McDermid's mysteries, but I could never (or rather I never took the time to) find out if they were in a series and if they could be read out of order etc. So they went out one of the times I cleared my shelves.

    I clearly remember the time of Margaret Thatcher. While we definitly were better off in Denmark and while do have our own government ;o) there was always a lot on the news of how bad things were going in UK. I do not look back on the 80s with the same fondness others do.

  6. A cold case story with a Scottish setting and an A from Cathy?

    Fortunately I have this one on my shelf so it won´t even cost me to give in to this temptation :D

  7. Margot K-- It is. Who was it who said, "The past never dies"?

    Bernadette-- So do I. I did some rearranging on a few bookcases and discovered a few of my favorite authors lost in the shuffle.

    BCC-- You're welcome. McDermid has been one of my favorite female crime fiction writers for several years now. One of her series is set in Manchester, and another has been turned into a series on telly: Wire in the Blood. I haven't watched much of it because I can't stand Robson Green!

    Nicola-- I hope you do get a chance. My favorite book of hers is A Place of Execution. It's excellent!

    Louise-- She writes several standalones, but if you pick up one of her books and see two characters' names (Tony Hill or Kate Brannigan), you've picked up one of her series.

    Dorte-- I'll look forward to your review of it!

  8. I'm a McDermid fan, too. Read this one not long ago, and felt much the same as you do. Liked the historical examination of the strikes, liked Karen Pirie, and yet felt my incredulity a bit strained as well. Enjoyed the ride, though!

  9. I listened to my first McDermid book last year and really enjoyed it. Hopefully I'll get to another one soon!

  10. Jenclair-- Yes, I tend to be more forgiving of a favorite author. :)

    Melissa-- I hope so, too! Thanks for stopping by!


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