Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Broken Ground by Val McDermid

This book was a rich source of entertainment.  The novel contains some of the best writing I have seen in a mystery, and its characters, particularly DCI Karen Pirie, the protagonist, were full and complex characters that seemed very much like real people.  I thoroughly enjoyed this well-written book, the thirty-second from Val McDermid.

Detective Chief Inspector Karen Pirie is the head of the 'Historical Crimes Unit' or HCU in Edinburgh, Scotland.  As the book begins she and her sidekick, Jason, are actively searching for a car which was seen at a series of rapes twenty years ago.  A new member of the HCU, McCartney, arrives and is, in reality, a spy from her boss who is trying to fire her.  As the three pursue leads from this cold case, DCI Pirie is called in when a body is found in a bog in the wilds of Scotland.  She is able to date this well-preserved body to 1995 as soon discovers he was a strength athlete who went missing all those years before.  Since he has two bullet wounds in the chest and neck, this was obviously a murder.

The investigation leads to some unlikely places.  One of the interesting things about this book is how far-fetched the leads in the case are, so as a reader, I was surprised when some of them actually pan out.  The investigation at times seems unlikely, but then the author ties the loss ends up logically so that the result is an interesting story.  The plot is complicated by the constant sabotage of the new member, McCartney and the intrusion of DCI Pirie's new boss (affectionately named 'The Dog Biscuit').  Throw in a Highlander love interest, who may or may not be involved in the murder, and the intersection with the rape cases; the book is wonderfully complex and interesting.

One of the devices used in the book to put the reader ahead in the mystery is the flashbacks to WWII where the crime of the murder had its origin.  Subsequent flashbacks occur to let the reader see the origin of the actions that led to the cold case.  At first I was like 'what? how is this related?' but this is part of the wonderfully woven story of this murder.  The effect is to let the reader see what DCI Pirie suspects was the case twenty years ago.

This was a great book and well worth the reading time.  I'm now looking for more Karen Pirie novels to sink my teeth into.  Highly recommended.  5/5 stars.

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