The Mermaids Singing, by Val McDermid

This book precedes The Wire in the Blood and so I knew how the story ended, but not enough to spoil it at all. Tony Hill is trying to establish the Home Office unit that will track serial offenders, and is called in to help the police solve the case of a serial killer. Fairly standard psycho-serial-killer stuff, with the story of the hunt for the killer interspersed with sections from his journal talking about his crimes.

It was a bit hard to reconcile the Tony Hill of Wire in the Blood with this one: while the second book alludes to his personal problems, in this one we get them exposed properly, and in fact it's a bit hard to accept that it's the same person. I think this was partly down to the reader being different, but not entirely. Tony in this book seems a very weak character, and I didn't really find the stuff about his psychological problems very convincing: I think McDermid did the right thing by dropping that as a theme in the subsequent book.

I did like the way that there weren't any annoying parallel sub-plots running through the story: unlike Wire in the Blood, where we had Carol's investigation of a serial arsonist; in ths book the story concentrated on the single killer and I thought that worked well.

What was notable, and what put me off a bit, were the explicit descriptions of the killer's crimes - he researched and constructed various torture apparatus to use, and I thought the level of detail was sometimes a bit over the top.

Not as good as Wire in the Blood, but worth having read.

Completed : 26-Aug-2005 (audiobook)

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