Posted in Book Review, Books I have read, Five Star Reads

Out of Bounds – Val McDermid

Crime Fiction 5*s
Crime Fiction

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.

First Published UK: 25 August 2016
Publisher: Little Brown Book Group
No of Pages: 448
Genre: Crime Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US


A book lover who clearly has issues as obsessed with crime despite leading a respectable life

30 thoughts on “Out of Bounds – Val McDermid

  1. This is an author I really need to read more of. I love the sound of this one and twist in using an adoption to make an investigation more complex. One for the list!


  2. Like you, Cleo, I enjoy stories where the past and the present are related like that. And these two plot lines really do sound interesting. You’re right, too, about McDermid’s ability to weave together a strong plot and interesting characters. Glad this one was a winner for you.


  3. Past and present connections are so much fun in crime books…and any kind of mystery, IMO. I am one of those people who has been living under a rock, I guess; I haven’t yet read this author, but I must start at the beginning, I think. Like with the Louise Penny and Elly Griffiths books, it works better for me, but it also takes forever to catch up when there are several books.

    Thanks for sharing…and I especially like the part of your review where you mention the dim partner, and how that works out nicely for the reader, too. LOL.


    1. Of course you are right and I should follow the good advice as now I have to wait before reading the book I have which is the third in the series as I know an element that happens which isn’t clever – I’m just not disciplined enough 😉
      I thought dim Jason was an inspired creation haha


  4. I’m one of those people who haven’t read Val McDermid and I have no idea why! I’m going to remedy that in 2017 for sure. I also love when past and present collide, Excellent review!


  5. Great review – glad you loved this! The odd thing about Val McDermid is that I feel I’ve read far, far more than thirty books by her – I feel as if I’ve been reading her on and off my entire life! I think you’ll like Skeleton Road too, though it’s much darker and grimmer than this one. I still have to read the first two in the series though…


    1. Thank you and I was trying to work out when I read my first book by her, it was a long time ago was the best answer I could come up with! I’m just shocked I haven’t read one since I’ve been blogging, I’m not really quite sure how that happened. Yes I was wondering whether to start at the beginning in the hope I’d forget what I’ve learnt happens in The Skeleton Road, before I read it!!


  6. I’ve eyed Val McDermid for years and years, but never read any of her series. Now that I know this one is only book #4, I feel that I can jump in at the beginning and not have to play catch up too much. This one sounds good so I’ll go research this newer series and get busy 🙂 thanks!


  7. I really enjoyed the first in the series, “The Distant Echo”. You’d expect, maybe somewhat naively that advances in technology would make cold case reviews easy pickings, McDermid always manages to provide a wrinkle or two to make sure that isn’t the case.

    Her true crime book “Forensics” is also worth a look if you like that sort of thing, it helps contextualise a lot of her fiction.

    Thanks for the review, I shall ass another of hers to my pile.


Leave a Reply, I love hearing what you have to say

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.