Val McDermid made me cry

This is my first read by The Wire in the Blood author Val McDermid. Don’t look at me like that! I only got back into crime recently and I tend toward the noirish end of crime (AKA everything goes wrong, you know who did it just not what’s going to happen to them because of it, but it’s bound to be bad) rather than the puzzles-to-solve whodunit end of the spectrum. This mostly has to do with how phenomenally lazy I am. Plotting a good detective novel takes a great deal of effort.

I would imagine.

So McDermid managed not only to weave a big fat mystery engagingly through a BIG FAT NOVEL of 500+ pages but managed to make me afraid for the outcome, caring about the characters — even ones I didn’t like! — and while I had an idea who the killer would be, I had no idea how it could be proved.

And yes, I cried. I remember asking a famous writer if he cried when he killed off a very beloved character and he looked at me like I was insane. I kind of thought he was either lying or a bit of a dick (maybe both). I’ve always shared Robert Frost’s opinion, “No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader.” McDermid made me cry for my favourite character and curse her for killing [gender suppressed as mildly spoilerish]. She also gave a new shape to my nightmares. I even tweeted her that she had done so and she tweeted back because she knew what it would be:

bottle dungeon.

Oh yeah. Shudder. I can’t recall the last time I had to stop reading because I couldn’t take it. I have read and watched a lot of horror in my day and while I wince with empathy, I seldom stop. I had to stop. And then I had to read to find out what happened even if it were the worst. The sweat’s popping out just thinking about  it again. Claustrophobia is a terrible thing.

So yeah, read it. And shudder.

Four in the morning, mid-December, and snow is smothering St Andrews. Student Alex Gilbey and his three best friends are staggering home from a party when they stumble upon the body of a young woman. Rosie Duff has been raped, stabbed and left for dead in the ancient Pictish cemetery. And the only suspects are the four young students stained with her blood. Twenty-five years later, Fife police mount a cold case review. Among the unsolved murders they’re examining is that of Rosie Duff. But someone else has their own idea of how justice should be done…



  1. Love the way you think. I never would have glanced at this book but for your review. Great job! You sold me. I have to know, bottle dungeon?

  2. LOL, cheers — the covers don’t really do it justice. The UK edition that I read has a thorny rose with the bloom gone. It looks like a kind of historical romance maybe. Click the link on bottle dungeon! Oh my god, I am going to steel myself to go over to St. Andrews and take a look at it when I get back to Dundee. If I can! I may not be able to get myself to actually look into it. But I have to try. I always force myself to do things that terrify me.

  3. I think St. Andrews Castle could be haunted. So much death! You might want to stay away from there.

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