Wednesday, January 11, 2017

The Skeleton Road by Val McDermid

First Line: Sunset is often a glamorous business in the Cretan holiday harbour of Chania.

A disused Victorian building is being demolished in the center of historic Edinburgh when workers find skeletal remains hidden on the roof. Call in cold case Detective Chief Inspector Karen Pirie to find answers for all the questions. When it turns out that the bones may be from as far away as the former Yugoslavia, she is going to have to dig deep into the tragic history of that area and into unspeakable war crimes and their consequences.

McDermid has once again crafted an engrossing mystery filled with memorable characters and questions. I still can't quite understand how all the horrific things that occurred in Bosnia and Serbia have faded so quickly and determinedly into the dim past. Without going into masses of gory details, McDermid brings those times to life through the characters she has created.

If anything, there may be a few too many characters, a few too many points of view, that occasionally slow the pace of the book. We have DCI Karen Pirie and her life partner (and fellow police officer) Phil. Pirie's on-the-job partner, Detective Constable Jason "the Mint" Murray. Prickly Oxford professor Maggie Blake, and Macanespie and Proctor, two men trying to find war criminals for the International Criminal Court. And I haven't named them all.

Macanespie and Proctor are sometimes referred to as "the dead-end kids," and they provide some much-needed comic relief while they plod through miles of paperwork in search of the bad guys. Pirie often feels as though DC Murray is the albatross hanging around her neck. The young man tends to be as thick as a plank and has absolutely no initiative, but it is heartwarming to see that he is actually learning things by working with her. Pirie does treat him well, regardless what she may think in private. There are also some highly emotional scenes when one of the characters is rushed to the hospital, and I wish I'd had a box of tissues at hand while reading that part.

Yes, McDermid has written a complex, thought-provoking story filled with complex characters. The Skeleton Road is only slightly marred by too many shifts in points of view. It reminds me of why I like Val McDermid's writing so much-- and why I shouldn't take so long to read another of her books.

The Skeleton Road by Val McDermid
eISBN: 9780802192141
Atlantic Monthly Press © 2014
eBook, 406 pages

Police Procedural, #2 DCI Karen Pirie mystery
Rating: A-
Source: Purchased from Amazon. 



  1. I just read "Out of Bounds," the next Karen Pirie book in the series. It was very good, and, yes, there are reasons to keep tissues nearby.

    That book reminded me to read "A Darker Domain," another in the Pirie series, which goes back to the miners' strike in 1984.

    1. That reminds me of another mystery that was set during the same miners' strike. Can't remember the title, though.

  2. I'm not surprised you thought well of this one, Cathy. McDermid does do a terrific job, doesn't she, of building characters and of keeping the reader engaged.

  3. I like Val McDermid's books, at the least the ones I've read. I don't think I've read any of the Karen Pirie books. And I think I have A DARKER DOMAIN. Need to put it in the 'stack'.

    1. Please be careful. You're in grave danger of being hurt by that "stack." ;-)


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