Splinter the Silence by Val McDermid
|Splinter the Silence by Val McDermid|
|Reviewer: Lesley Mason|
|Summary: Re-united with sidekick psychologist Dr Tony Hill, Ex DI Carol Jordan is on the trail of whoever is driving strong women to suicide. A rational plot, but one that somehow doesn’t live up to the premis’s potential. Neither dark nor deep enough.|
|Buy? Maybe||Borrow? Maybe|
|Pages: 416||Date: August 2015|
|Publisher: Little, Brown|
|External links: Author's website|
I should probably be ashamed to say that I only know Val McDermid's Tony Hill series from the TV adaption Wire in the Blood. And I'm afraid to say that if the latest offering is par for the series, then I'll remain content with that.
McDermid has an awesome reputation. The only other of her books that I've read A Darker Domain held that reputation to be well-earned. This one does not.
We start with a killer, and a killing. A killing as part of a mission. Cold, and planned, and with a purpose. Once the purpose had settled, the rest was just logistics. To the average person in the street, she was simply another North London thirty-something… Hard to believe anybody had ever taken any notice of anything she'd said or done.
But it was what she'd said, and how she'd stood by what she'd said that was about to get her silenced for ever… and just in case people didn't understand, the stage would be set to underline his message.
Former D.I. Carol Jordan is off the force, living in the middle of nowhere, renovating her late brother's barn by her own sheer physical labour and trying to make friends with the locals. It's a distraction of kinds, but not a good enough one to stop her drinking. Leaving the home of a neighbour (which in this neighbourhood is someone who lives about three miles away) after a dinner that was only as boozy as you'd expect in the county set, she is arrogant or stupid enough to get into her Land Rover and try to drive home.
When she's nicked, she humble enough to simply accept that she has screwed up, to know that nothing is going to make this go away. She phones an ex-colleague without really expecting him to do anything other than walk away, as he does, and settles down to take the consequences: a night in the cells being just the start of it.
Tony Hill isn't really missing the police work. Or at least he's not admitting to it. He still has his clinical practice and his academic study. What he's not ashamed to admit (except maybe to her) is that he is missing D.I. Carol Jordan. He loves her. But he'll settle for being allowed to care about her and to care for her, and his psychologist's brain knows she needs all of the above.
As for himself, he's got rid of a lot of stuff, whittled down what he needs to keep into what will fit into a houseboat on the canal. The books – well you don't get rid of books – he's built into a personal library in a shelved out and furnished storage locker.
Naturally when she's bailed, Jordan calls Tony Hill. And naturally he comes running. But this is the last time, he swears. This time it's tough love – she's off the booze or he's quitting.
What neither of them know is that there are plans a-foot to get Jordan back into service (and let's face it she's likely to want to take him with her, professionally speaking)… but for that to happen, the current charge is going to be a serious impediment.
Meanwhile women, outspoken women, are being trolled. They are receiving the kind of hate-posts on their websites that – despite their apparent strength of character – is driving them to suicide. Suicide. Open Verdict. But there is something… Hill knows there is something about these deaths that doesn't quite add up… and so he and Jordan start to investigate. Unofficially. Just as something to do, to keep her mind occupied and away from the bottle.
I don't know how this compares to the other Jordan and Hill novels, but as a stand-alone piece I found it disappointing. The premise is a reasonable one. The killer's motivation stacks up. The investigation works, if you're willing to accept the cliché of the super-hacker-wizard who remains on the force because (rather than despite) her ability to break every privacy law and ICT security code in the (unwritten) book – even if she has to play at 1970s darkened cinema spooks-exchanges to get some of them. It works if you accept that an ex-officer about to be convicted on a guilty plea to a criminal offence would be important enough for the wheels to be turned in certain directions. It works if you're happy with relationships in police stations being more juvenile and petty than they are in most junior school playgrounds.
Actually, maybe that last bit is true. It shows up in enough crime fiction to have to have at least a grounding in reality?
Personally I also find it difficult to appreciate the genuine skill of the profiler if I'm watching him do his work, but with more information at my disposal than he has at his. I can see the narrative theory. The reader will be able to see the mistakes he's making, but for me that undermines tension rather than adding to it. Believing he's got it cracked, following the clues as he finds them, working them out (ahead or behind him) but purely on the basis of his available knowledge is something I find to be a tighter draw. Knowing he's wrong, foreshadows where the plot has to go next (the missed opportunity) too strongly.
All in all it was a decent enough read. A maverick investigation into alleged suicides, with an ounce of police procedural thrown in, serial killing violence kept mostly off-screen, and (nearly) everything eventually being neatly resolved. Somehow the whole thing just lacked depth.
For McDermid at her more insightful and gripping we’d recommend A Darker Domain delving the outfall of a the miners’ strike some two decades later.
You can read more book reviews or buy Splinter the Silence by Val McDermid at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy Splinter the Silence by Val McDermid at Amazon.com.
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