Friday, July 6, 2018

Review of Fever of the Bone by Val McDermid (Sphere, 2009)

When teenager, Jennifer Maidment, is found brutally murdered, West Mercia police struggle to find a lead that will direct them to the killer. They reluctantly decide to bring in profiler, Tony Hill. Hill has his own reasons to visit Worcester – his work with Bradford police has dried up due to a new chief constable looking to cut costs and restructure, and the father he never knew has left him a house and narrow boat in the city. DCI Carol Jordan is unhappy at losing access to one of her key assets and friends, especially since someone is murdering teenagers in Bradford in quick succession. Her team have little time to dwell on Hill’s absence as they struggle to work out what links the victims and identify the killer; though Jordan carves out time to investigate the mysterious past of Hill’s father. It seems that Hill and Jordan are investigating similar crimes, but the partitioned nature of British police forces means neither is aware of the potential links. Their loss is the killer’s gain and the murders are increasing in pace and geographic spread.  

Fever of the Bone is the sixth outing in the Tony Hill (profiler) and Carol Jordan (DCI) series. As usual, it focuses on decoding the psychology and catching a driven killer. In this case the murderer is targeting teenagers, but Hill is convinced that the killer is not motivated by the same kind of desires that usually underpin such crimes. Hill is also dealing with some of his own personal issues related to his father, and Jordan is handling a threat from the new chief constable to disband her elite unit. The strength of the story is the engaging narrative, page-turning plot, and characters. The tale quickly hooks the reader in and propels them along, with the attention captivated as much by the personal lives of the police as the crime and its resolution. McDermid nicely elaborates the personal and professional tangles of the Jordan’s whole team, not just her star leads, as well as giving a good sense of the victims and their families. Where the story falters a little is the coincidences that permeate the tale, especially the link across sites through Hill. Also, there’s a side-line cold case mystery that is solved in part using a technology solution that I’m not convinced by (wearing my professional hat) and kind of fizzles along in a very linear way without ever sparking into a more interesting sub-plot. But these are just minor niggles as the story is a compelling and entertaining police procedural.

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