The Wire in the Blood, by Val McDermid

The Home Office is establishing a special unit to help police track and apprehend serial offenders. The unit is led by Tony Hill, who is a very experienced criminal psychologist, and has (in a previous book, "The Mermaids Singing") solved a case which has left him mentally scarred. As an exercise to help the team get an appreciation of the kind of work they face, Hill gives them a random selection of unsolved cases dating back over many years, and asks them to see what they make of them. One of the team members reckons that she's identified that a serial abductor is at work, and presents her conclusions to the group. None of them takes her ideas seriously, so she decides to do some solo investigation...

After Killing the Shadows I said I'd give McDermid one more chance, and she redeems herself in spades here. This was a really good read - maybe not such an interesting structure as A Place of Execution, but perhaps more gripping. Like KTS, the story here strains credulity - I'm not sure there are that many serial rapists and murderers that the HO would set up a special task force, and it's hard to believe that the killer in this book (whose identity we know from the start, and is a famous TV personality), could really have got away with the things he did. But I think one of the things that made this book stronger was the sympathy you felt to the characters. This was especially effective when a key player, who I'd assumed would be in the story right to the end of the book, is killed fairly early on. From then on I was hooked and didn't want to stop listening, happy to suspend disbelief.

The psychology in this book was more interesting than in KTS, and there were a couple of quite plausible explanations from Hill about how serial killers operate and think. There were quite a few references to the previous case he'd worked on: that book is now on order.

Completed : 24-Jul-2005 (audiobook)

[nickoh] [2005 books] [books homepage]