Thursday, June 22, 2017

Review of Out of Bounds by Val McDermid (Little, Brown; 2016)

DCI Karen Pirie is still coming to terms with the untimely death of her partner, Phil. Unable to sleep she walks the streets at night and throws herself into her work as head of the Historic Cases Unit during the day. Her latest investigation is a familial DNA match from a joyrider with the perpetrator of a rape and murder twenty years previously. It should be an open and shut case, but there’s a tricky complication. At the same time, Pirie takes an interest in a contemporary case, one she has no right to get involved in: the apparent suicide of a disturbed man. Pirie thinks it’s murder and piquing her interest further is the unsolved murder of the man’s mother twenty five years earlier, a victim of a bomb on a small, private plane. She starts to investigate both, putting herself on a potential collision course with her a colleague, her boss, and an influential third party. Not that this fazes Pirie; all she is interested in is justice and she doesn’t mind ruffling feathers and undermining her own position to get it.

Out of Bounds is the fourth book in the Inspector Karen Pirie cold case series set in Scotland, though I read it as a standalone. In this outing Pirie is investigating three cases, two of them interlinked, and also trying to help some Syrian refugees find their feet in their new home in Edinburgh. None of the cases are straightforward, complicated by messy family relations, and they all have the potential to get Pirie in trouble with her boss and the press. And she only has the jurisdiction to examine one of them. McDermid does a nice job of winding the cases and the refugee thread around each other and keeping the pacing taut and steady. There are a handful of plot devices that felt a little contrived and murderer in one of the cases was well telegraphed despite a couple of attempts at misdirection. But none of that really mattered as the key to the story is Karen Pirie, an indomitable, engaging, driven and wounded spirit who is willing to cut corners and rub people up the wrong way if it gets her a result, and McDermid’s engaging voice. The result is an interesting and entertaining police procedural.

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