Monday, May 13, 2024

Broken Ground by Val McDermid

First Line: The slap of spades in dense peat was an unmistakable sound.
It's just another day at the office for Detective Chief Inspector Karen Pirie. She's been saddled with Detective Sergeant Gerry McCartney, a man who has no understanding of the Historic Cases Unit-- or even the desire to work there. In addition, Pirie's boss ACC Ann Markie (called "the dog biscuit" behind her back) seems to have upped her game in an attempt to finally get rid of her. 
But it's not all fun and personality clashes. Karen is assigned to a case in the Highlands. A woman finds the location of treasure that her grandfather had hidden when he was there during World War II, but when she digs it up, she finds the corpse of a man who'd been shot. Karen is also working a domestic violence case, and as she gets closer to the truth, it becomes obvious that not everyone shares her desire for justice.


Val McDermid's Karen Pirie series continues to be one of my favorites. Pirie is a bastion in the Harry Bosch School of Policing. In Broken Ground, she says "My ambition is to clear cases that everybody else has given up on. To give answers to people that have been waiting way too long to find out who blew a hole in their lives and why." That makes her just the type of character most crime fiction fans love.
Karen Pirie will succeed, no matter what it takes, and if it means she'll lose her job... so be it. This makes her a bitter pill to swallow for those above her who pay more attention to spreadsheets and the bottom line cost of things, and her boss is determined to get rid of her no matter how high her clearance rate is.
There are only two people in the Historic Cases Unit (HCU): Karen and a young Detective Constable known as The Mint. The Mint isn't the sharpest knife in the drawer, but Karen prefers to work with him as a known entity rather than deal with the unknown... who joins the unit as DS Gerry McCartney, a man who doesn't understand the mission of such a unit nor does he want to. One of the things I like so much about this series is that The Mint isn't mere comic relief. He's a good-natured young man who wants to do a good job, and he is getting better. How? He's "channeling" Karen's deceased partner and Karen herself-- and it's working. Good role models do make a difference.

There's enough going on with the characters to keep readers occupied, but the two cases the HCU is working on are compelling, too. And that's par for the course in this series. Strong characters and strong mysteries. If you haven't made the acquaintance of Karen Pirie, I strongly recommend that you do so. Start at the beginning with the award-winning The Distant Echo.

Broken Ground by Val McDermid
eISBN: 9780802146939
Grove Atlantic © 2018
eBook, 432 pages
Police Procedural, #5 DCI Karen Pirie
Rating: A
Source: Purchased from Amazon.


  1. I love the Karen Pirie series, but I can't remember if I read this book. Time to look at my list of finished books. I believe a TV series is on Brit Box. May be worth my getting that.

    1. Yes, I've watched the first season of that, and I liked it. I'm looking forward to the second season.

  2. Honestly, Cathy, I'd have been really surprised if you *hadn't* given one of the Karen Pirie books an 'A' or at least an 'A-.' McDermid is that good, and she has been for decades. I try to learn from her when I read her work...

    1. She's a marvelous writer. The first book of hers that I read was A Place of Execution. It blew me away, and I've read almost all of her books since.

  3. Pirie does sound like a great character. I'm off to look up The Distant Echo. :D


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