A Place of Execution, by Val McDermid

A journalist is writing a book about a crime that is 35 years old, and manages to persuade George Bennett, one of the key police investigators at the time to tell his story. The crime - the sexual abuse and murder of a young girl, took place in a Derbyshire village where the community is close-knit and initially resistant to outside help, so George had a hard time cracking the case. But when it was brought court it made the headlines and has since come to be seen as establishing important precedents in legal proceedings. However, just as the book is nearly finished, George decides that it must not be published.

The first half of this book is actually the manuscript of the book about the crime, complete with dedications, acknowledgements, and references to the Moors murders. So it was a little confusing listening to it: I thought at first (not being able to refer to a synopsis on the book cover) that perhaps I'd picked up a fact-based book after all. And the pace, to start with, is quite slow. So I was tempted to pack it in. But the atmosphere drew me in, and as the details of the crime unfolded it started to be quite compulsive.

As George slowly unravelled the details about what must have happened, it became increasingly gripping. There was little doubt who the murderer was, although the investigation was hampered by lack of a body. So when the jury returned to announce their verdict, I was on the edge of my seat, to find out what they'd say.

The second half of the book, which is told in "the present", i.e. late '90s, had some excellent twists, and was pretty much un-putdownable. The final denoument was maybe a bit of a let down after all the build-up, but it was altogether a thrilling read.

Well worth reading more by Val McDermid.

Completed : 13-May-2005 (audiobook)

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