Well once again I’m going to give some of you the heebie jeebies by admitting that I have jumped in at number four in the Karen Pirie series! I do have The Skeleton Road on the TBR and I really should have read that one, at least, first. But I didn’t and this book was entertaining enough that the slight hints regarding previous characters has given some spoilers but Out of Bounds was entirely readable as a stand-alone novel.
After a car accident where young and reckless joyrider Ross Garvie, crashes a land-rover killing his three passengers and leaving himself in a very bad way routine blood samples are taken. When put into the database they provide a familial hit for a particularly nasty rape and murder some twenty years previously. The problem being our young joyrider was adopted and so the cold case lawyer has to go to court to ask for his records to be released. I loved this part, rarely do we see the actual pleas to the courts for legal directives in police procedurals and it was good to have a little aside from the investigation and of course it adds tension, is permission going to be granted? And ultimately how ethical is that?
Meanwhile there has been a suspected suicide on a bench, Gabriel Abbott has died due to a gunshot wound to the head. The investigating officer wants this one wrapped up without any fuss but a link to a terrorist killing of four people twenty years previously means that Karen Pirie isn’t so sure. Pushing the boundaries of her remit to the very edge she begins making enquiries into both the past and present case.
I have a particular love of the past colliding with the present in my crime fiction reads and so I knew before I started that I was highly likely to enjoy this book, after all there is not one but two cases where what happened in the past is linked to the present. That said, I had almost forgotten how much I love Val McDermid’s writing, it’s been a while since I picked up one of her books despite being a fairly early adopter of the Tony Hill and Carol Jordan series I stupidly let her drift to wayside.. no more! I particularly love Karen Pirie’s character. She is tough without being overbearing and despite some huge personal issues (this was where I should have read the series in order) she forges onward not impervious, but with a quiet determination, which I fully admired. But out of everything it is her relationship with the rather dim Jason, her second (and only) in command. This relationship more than adequately indicates the nature of our chief protagonist as well as providing a good few laughs along the way. With Jason being so slow on the uptake it also gives the author a platform to make sure the reader is following any complexity without ever sounding patronising – brilliant pairing and for this alone I want to read more of this series.
Val McDermid also keeps the present very present indeed. In this book there is a side story which concerns a number of Syrian refugees who have been relocated to Scotland and without spoilers I would just like to make the link to my review of Small Great Things by Jodie Picoult;, this is the way I prefer to read about the sensitive issue of racism, because there was no doubt what the author’s view is, but in no way did I feel I was being asked to pick a side in an argument, and I learnt things that I didn’t know.
In a swift conclusion, two great main storyline which are well-plotted, a fantastic array of characters, all realistic and rounded along a superb vignette of contemporary issue all nicely packaged in a straightforward police procedural with no complicated structure at all – no wonder Val McDermid is such a hit, not just in her native Scotland but around the world. If you love crime fiction and haven’t read any of the previous twenty-nine books that this talented woman has published, where have you been?
I received my copy of Out of Bounds from the publishers Little Brown Book Group and this unbiased review is my thanks to them.