Books by Val McDermid

Released: Dec. 3, 2019

"A vast, absorbing smorgasbord of crime, malfeasance, and corruption that ultimately has no more momentum than most bountiful buffets."
Sidelined in very different ways since their last collaboration ended so disastrously for them both, DCI Carol Jordan and psychological profiler Dr. Tony Hill are reduced to subplots as the Regional Major Incident Team founded by Carol plows on under DI Paula McIntyre. Read full book review >
BROKEN GROUND  by Val McDermid
Released: Dec. 4, 2018

"The mystery itself has a stop-start rhythm, but as a novel about the too-consuming work life many of us lead, it's timely and recognizable."
The accidental discovery of a body is the starting point for the latest mystery featuring the Scottish cold-case detective Karen Pirie. Read full book review >
Released: Dec. 5, 2017

"McDermid keeps all three of these pots simmering, raising the heat in agonizingly tiny increments, until she's ready for a finale guaranteed to leave you reeling."
Back on the job as head of the newly formed regional Major Incident Team, DCI Carol Jordan (Splinter the Silence, 2015, etc.) is tested to the max by the Wedding Killer. Read full book review >
OUT OF BOUNDS by Val McDermid
Released: Dec. 6, 2016

"This wayward and entertaining mystery has the grace of a heroine on the verge of coming into her own as a character whom readers will want to spend time with."
A fatal car crash leads to information about a cold murder case in the fourth DCI Karen Pirie mystery. Read full book review >
Released: Dec. 1, 2015

"There's a stroke of inspiration in imagining how easily the murderous impulses of online trolls might be unleashed, but neither that premise nor the duo who've won fans to the series are well-served by this entry."
An Internet bully decides to take the next step to actual violence in the latest Tony Hill and Carol Jordan thriller. Read full book review >
FORENSICS by Val McDermid
Released: July 7, 2015

"A satisfying insider's excursion into the scientific realities behind CSI-style pop culture."
From a bestselling mystery author, a curiosity-fueled look at the realities behind crime science. Read full book review >
Released: Dec. 2, 2014

"This stand-alone from McDermid (Cross and Burn, 2013, etc.) combines conscientious detection with heartfelt reflections on the enduring power of the Yugoslavian breakup to wreak violence long after the 1995 Dayton Accords."
A grisly discovery atop the roof of a venerable Edinburgh school slated for demolition sends two very different sets of investigators scurrying for answers rooted in the endless conflict between Serbs and Croats. Read full book review >
Released: April 15, 2014

"Northanger Abbey is frequently thought of alongside Austen's juvenilia. Too often, this oddly literal reimagining comes off as simply juvenile."
In the second installment of the Austen Project, which has contemporary writers updating the classic novels, McDermid (Cross and Burn, 2013, etc.) strives to reinvigorate an overlooked Gothic parody with a 21st-century makeover. Read full book review >
CROSS AND BURN by Val McDermid
Released: Oct. 22, 2013

"McDermid earns her customary high marks for planting clues, mastering procedural detail and maintaining suspense as the net closes. As usual, however, the endlessly fraught relationships among the continuing characters are the real draw."
The abrupt departure of DCI Carol Jordan leaves the Bradfield Metropolitan Police ill-equipped to deal with a killer whose targets bear a truly unsettling similarity to one another. Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 4, 2012

"If anything vanishes in this book, it's the first-rate writing fans of McDermid (best known in the States for her Wire in the Blood series) have come to expect."
Against all expectations, London ghostwriter Stephanie Harker becomes friends with her latest subject, bad girl reality show star Scarlett Higgins, only to become caught up in a scheme that leads to the abduction of Scarlett's little boy. Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 7, 2010

"As usual in McDermid, there's so much going on—including an ancient, unsolved triple homicide and Tony's stumbling attempts to come to terms with the late father who never acknowledged him—that fans of the British procedural will find their cup running over."
Under pressure from every side, DCI Carol Jordan, who heads Bradfield CID's major incident team, and profiler Dr. Tony Hill are forced to work out a new series of relationships with each other. Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 15, 2009

"Long and grueling, but high-octane catnip for procedural fans, especially since a violent prologue allows McDermid (The Grave Tattoo, 2007, etc.) to sideline the ongoing salt-and-pepper romance of Carol and profiler Tony Hill so that they can concentrate on business."
As if the usual round of serial murder (The Torment of Others, 2005, etc.) weren't challenge enough, DCI Carol Jordan and her staff at Bradfield's Major Incident Team have to deal with a bombing at the local soccer stadium—or, even worse, they don't. Read full book review >
Released: Feb. 6, 2007

"The criminal is obvious and Tenille's behavior incredible. But McDermid (The Torment of Others, 2005, etc.) handles the interplay between past and present with masterful and infectious conviction."
An ambitious reworking of the demi-historical mode of Possession with a mutiny substituting for one love story and a series of murders taking the place of the other. Read full book review >
Released: June 1, 2005

"Hypnotic mind-control, sexual trauma overcome by a roll in bed with a good-looking hunk, and dead ends jump-started by fortuitous computer photos make McDermid's latest exercise in serial murder (The Distant Echo, 2003, etc.) less than compelling."
A serial killer and a pedophile overtax the Bradfield Metropolitan Police. Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 1, 2003

"McDermid, putting aside her fondness for serial killers (The Last Temptation, 2002, etc.), masterfully presents the 1978 portion of her story but stumbles so badly with melodramatic present-tense plot quirks that readers will be well ahead of Lawson in naming Rosie's killer."
New forensic breakthroughs reopen a 25-year-old cold case. Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 1, 2002

"A successor to The Mermaids Singing (1996) so densely packed that the poor serial killer almost gets dropped between the cracks."
Whoever he is, Geronimo—the code name psychological profiler Dr. Tony Hill uses for the latest serial killer in his sights—doesn't have much use for psychologists. Beginning with Dr. Walter Neumann of the University of Heidelberg, he's been knocking them out, tying them to their own desks, stripping them, drowning them, and shaving their privates. Geronimo's macabre ritual is so distinctive, in fact, that it's not long before cops in two European countries sense that their victims are only part of a larger pattern and start sharing their information through Europol. As luck would have it, their investigation is gathering steam just as Detective Chief Inspector Carol Jordan, long in love with unresponsive Tony, arrives in Germany on her first assignment as Europol Liaison Officer: to capitalize on her uncanny resemblance to Katerina Basler, late mistress of mobster Tadeusz Radecki, to go undercover as a partner in Tadzio's operation smuggling illegal Chinese in order to make him an offer he'll be too entranced to refuse—an offer that will smash his whole immigration ring. As Carol worms her way into Tadzio's confidence, Tony is building up a portrait of Geronimo from the evidence the police have painstakingly amassed. Then suddenly, on page 338, both Carol and Tony begin to act accountably reckless, setting the stage for a melodramatic third act that undercuts the considerable ambitions McDermid (Killing the Shadows, 2001, etc.) has for this dark tale. Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 1, 2001

"Pretty murky motivation, not helped by the tic of brandishing the perp's journal every several chapters. McDermid has handled the duel between serial killers and profilers better in The Mermaids Singing (1996)."
As Francis Blake leaves the Old Bailey, gleefully celebrating the dismissal of the charges against him for raping and murdering a young mother on Hampstead Heath while her two toddlers watched, neither Steve Preston of the Met nor his good friend, psychological profiler Fiona Cameron, is supposed to still be working the case. But they are, unofficially, whenever they can steal a moment. When she's not off in Spain consulting about a serial killer on the loose there, Fiona is also worried that her partner, thriller writer Kit Martin, may be next on the list of a serial killer who's already polished off three crime writers in the same gruesome manners they depicted in their fiction. Steve and his colleague Sarah Duvall, busy scouting leads Fiona's provided to the Hampstead murder, think Kit's in no danger, but when he's abducted, Fiona heads off to search for him in the wilds of Scotland, where the killer is planning to exsanguinate Kit and paint the cabin walls with his blood, just as in his book. Sarah will deal with a publicity-seeking confessor and Steve will nab the real Heath villain, but it will be up to Fiona to save Kit—down a pint of blood and in the rifle sights of his tormentor—and finally come to terms with the her young sister Lesley's murder by a serial killer who's never been found. Read full book review >
Released: April 1, 1998

The first US publication of a novel that appeared in 1987 in England. Here, gay journalist Lindsay Gordon (Deadline for Murder, 1997, etc.), based in Glasgow and presently freelancing to eke out a living, makes her debut when longtime friend Paddy Callaghan, a drama teacher at the Derbyshire House Girls' School, gets her a magazine assignment for a story on the school's fund-raising weekend—an event that's part of the school's battle to fend off builder James Cartwright, who wants to buy its athletic fields for residential development. Other weekend guests include novelist/talk-show star Cordelia Brown and famed cellist Lorna Smith-Coupey. As the audience awaits a benefit concert that evening, Lorna is discovered dead—-garrotted by a cello string—in one of the backstage music rooms. In short order, a truculent Inspector Dart has jailed Paddy for the killing, and school head Pamela Overton has authorized Lindsay and Cordelia (lovers at first sight) to try to find evidence to clear Paddy. A string of tedious interviews, plus repetitive reviews of time frames and alibis, produces a host of Lorna-hating suspects, but it's a second death that pushes our journalist-sleuth to a violent confrontation with the not-so-surprising killer. Clumsy plotting, relentlessly verbose characters, and a sluggish pace don't help Lindsay's overextended debut outing—one of the author's lesser efforts. Read full book review >
Released: April 1, 1997

Don't be fooled: McDermid's third appearance in under a year (following The Mermaids Singing and Blue Genes) is actually the first American edition of a Lindsay Gordon novel published in the UK in 1991 as Final Edition. Her third case begins when Lindsay returns to Glasgow to find her blackmailing journalist colleague and ex-lover Alison Maxwell strangled, and Alison's ex-lover Jackie Mitchell starting a life sentence for the murder. Lindsay's old lover, Booker Prize prospect Cordelia Brown, has fled to the arms of Jackie's ex-lover, attorney Claire Oglivie, who hires Lindsay to clear Jackie's name—but who isn't a bit happy with the new suspect identified by the eyewitness Lindsay digs up. A midgrade whodunit peopled with lesbians (and one gay male MP) who've all slept with each other, or hope to do so soon. Only the prose is chaste. Read full book review >
BLUE GENES by Val McDermid
Released: Feb. 1, 1997

Kate Brannigan's partner-in-crime-solving, Bill Mortensen, has been snared by a marriage-minded Australian siren and wants to sell his share of their inquiry agency to Kate. But she can't afford it—and besides, there's no way to tell what the partnership will be worth if wisecracking Kate (Clean Break, 1995, etc.) even survives the rash of cases that await her. There's an unscrupulous pair of headstone sellers who prey on the recently bereaved, and the punk band (scruffy buddies of Kate's rock-journalist lover Richard Barclay) whose shot at basking in the bright lights of Manchester is getting sabotaged by a bunch of well-connected heavies. And then there's the murder of Dr. Sarah Blackstone, a gynecologist who promised her practice— lesbians who wanted children of their own—that she could help them conceive without involving any men. Now Blackstone's patients, desperate to hide the nature of her research, find that she was even more secretive than they were, using a false name for her consulting and pushing her fertility research into frontiers that would've given anyone in her lab a perfect motive to kill her. Busy with comings and goings, but a bit mechanical and homogeneous, too, with a tangle of cases that tend to tap the same reliable emotions, a highly unsatisfactory climax, and not a trace of the dark brilliance of McDermid's The Mermaids Singing (p. 1498). Read full book review >
Released: Dec. 1, 1996

Nothing in McDermid's wisecracking books about Manchester p.i. Kate Brannigan (Clean Break, 1995, etc.) could have prepared you for this taut study of Handy Andy, the name that psychological profiler Tony Hill has adopted to humanize the faceless S/M connoisseur the Bradfield coppers call the Queer Killer. Tony, who's treating his own sexual hangups by not hanging up on an importunate caller looking for phone sex, is hauled aboard the stalled investigation when bigoted Supt. Tom Cross won't admit the possibility that the three torture-murders are the work of a single hand. In short order Hill and Inspector Carol Jordan have a fourth crime to work with—the mutilated body of a local constable—but it doesn't help; Andy is too savvy, and now too practiced, to leave any traces at the scene. As Andy recounts the details of each murder to a celebratory tape recorder, Cross stumbles badly, planting evidence on a gym manager who bragged about knowing all four victims, beating and arresting him when he tries to flee the country, and abandoning him in his holding cell to a nightmare of justice gone wrong . Even with Cross on suspension, the case still has room for the mole who's leaking info to his lover on the Sentinel Times and for the copycat killer determined to piggyback on the notoriety of Handy Andy, who's planning a last coup against Hill himself. The grim details make this one not for everybody—but if serial killers are your meat, you'll see why McDermid won this year's Gold Dagger from Britain's Crime Writers Association. Read full book review >
CLEAN BREAK by Val McDermid
Released: Oct. 1, 1995

What does the theft of Lord Henry Naismith's prize Monetthe latest of a well-oiled series of art robberies from some of England's finest homeshave to do with a lethal spate of industrial extortion over at Kerrchem, Trevor Kerr's cleaning- chemical company? Nothing, really, except that Manchester p.i. Kate Brannigan, whose firm installed Henry's security system, is on both cases. Kate has surprisingly little trouble identifying the art thief, but her chase for bigger fry will lead her from Antwerp to Genoa to a histrionic drop-dead scene with her lover, rock journalist Richard Barclay. On the Kerrchem front, she'll taste first blood againfingering a probable blackmailer early onbut the case will grind on for ages before she's finally able to figure out why the blackmailer didn't just threaten to adulterate shipments of KerrSter with caustic soda but felt moved to spike two especially nasty bottles with cyanide. Kate, whose first three books (Crack Down, 1994, etc.) showed a fine line in wisecracking without the depth McDermid wants to claim for her here, does yeoman work on the art thefts from beginning to end. The Kerrchem quagmire, though, is a mess even when she gets done mopping up. Read full book review >
CRACK DOWN by Val McDermid
Released: Nov. 1, 1994

The first indication Birmingham PI Kate Brannigan gets that things have gone wrong with her rock-journalist boyfriend, Richard Barclay—who's been posing as her husband in order to expose a scheme to defraud automakers' loan companies of short-term interest—is a call she receives from his solicitor in the dead of night. Richard's been stopped driving the flash car he and Kate had bought the previous day, and he's been arrested, the coppers having found two kilos of crack and a kiddie-porn memento inside. Kate (Kickback, 1993, etc.) soon satisfies herself that the car dealer under suspicion hasn't gotten wise and turned the tables, though Richard's bad luck is a coincidence that never does get satisfactorily resolved in the wake of the other problems he sticks Kate with. Not only does she have to come up with evidence of who really loaded the car with its ú200,000 cargo, but she has to look after Richard's eight-year-old son, Davy, visiting his father for the half-term, without tipping his possessive mother off to what her ex-husband's been up to. Don't look for comic relief when Kate shoulders these domestic chores. When Davy staggers home with a full load of hallucinogenic tattoos, the case turns more personal and nasty, until Cherie Roberts, the struggling mother of the two friends who vouched for the tattoo dispenser, pushes Kate's inquiries too hard and gets paid off with a shotgun blast. Kate's detection is more dogged than inspired, but the northern England working-class background is chillingly plausible, and Kate's wry humor as welcome as ever. Read full book review >
KICKBACK by Val McDermid
Released: Sept. 9, 1993

Earnest, honest, likable contractor Ted Barlow is about to go bust; the bank is cutting off his credit, thanks to the high rate of defaults on mortgages taken out to purchase one of his conservatories (a sunroom attached to the back of a standing house). Barlow appeals to Manchester p.i. Kate Brannigan (Deadbeat, 1993) for help, and admits to an even greater complication: Many of the aforementioned conservatories have simply vanished! Kate's investigation unearths unscrupulous lawyer Martin Cheetham (later found hanging from his balcony in flimsy women's apparel); supersalesman Jack McCafferty, with an overstuffed bank account; and a brother-sister pair who are double-crossing everyone. And all this land-fiddling ties in with a separate real-estate scam that's been worked on Kate's chums Alexis and Chris—a scam that also involves complicated mischief perpetrated on the Land Registry. Clever plot twists—and Kate's wit has the bite of Fran Leibowitz's. Minor appearances by Deadbeat regulars Bill, Kate's computer-whiz partner, and rock-critic lover Richard. Read full book review >
DEAD BEAT by Val McDermid
Released: Feb. 26, 1993

McDermid (Open and Shut, Report for Murder) introduces tough- minded Manchester, England, p.i. Kate Brannigan. In a first outing, Kate agrees to hunt for black rock-star Jett's former partner/lyricist/soulmate Moira, who left Jett and took up heroin, prostitution, and lesbianism. Kate finds her, but then—after six weeks in Jett's mansion—Moira, coshed with a tenor sax, lies dead on the rehearsal studio floor. Whodunit? A sex-spurned Jett? His bimbo secretary of his new gal-pal? His coke-sniffing producer? His ``approved'' biographer, a sensation-seeking tabloid writer? His manager, who's feathering his nest with a cut of tour memorabilia rip-offs? Kate and her computer-whiz partner check out a few databases, while Kate's rock-critic boyfriend Richard fills them in on Jett's personal history. Kate also tinkers with an alibi or two, annoying the cops mightily, and ultimately solves the case with a clue from a reporter and some illegal hacking. Just one more sardonically-amusing-about-the-men-in-her-life female p.i. who drinks a little too much. Lacks pep, sizzle, not to mention good work ethics. Read full book review >
OPEN AND SHUT by Val McDermid
Released: April 30, 1991

Who killed blackmailing, bisexual Alison Maxwell? Her former lover Jackie Mitchell has been tried and convicted, but another former lover—reporter Lindsay Gordon, recently returned from Italy—is hired by another lesbian chum, Claire, to investigate. Lindsay quickly discovers that Alison played musical beds with most of the lesbian population of Glasgow—and, to a woman, they loathed her, as did the few husbands she also dallied with. The police, however, have failed to follow up on a clue: on a glass is half a thumbprint that is neither Alison's or Jackie's. When a friend and neighbor's apartment is ransacked (gone missing: state secrets, as well as a homosexual M.P.'s cache of naughty pictures), Lindsay soon finds herself with two cases to solve—but, fortuitously, the robbery produces an eyewitness to the murder, who's fingered in one of those dreadfully corny everyone-gathered-in-the-lounge scenes. Whiny, and teeming with one-dimensional love triangles. A flat follow-up to McDermid's more engaging Report for Murder. Read full book review >