Sunday, March 15, 2009

Mystery Book Review: A Darker Domain by Val McDermid

Mysterious Reviews, mysteries reviewed by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, is publishing a new review of A Darker Domain by Val McDermid. For our blog readers, we are printing it first here in advance of its publication on our website.

A Darker Domain by Val McDermid

by
Non-series

Harper (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 0-06-168898-3 (0061688983)
ISBN-13: 978-0-06-168898-0 (9780061688980)
Publication Date: January 2009
List Price: $24.99

Review: Val McDermid crafts an intriguing decades old cold case mystery in the stand-alone thriller A Darker Domain featuring Detective Inspector Karen Pirie of the Fife (Scotland) police department.

Pirie is actually handed two cases almost simultaneously. The first is a missing persons investigation. What interests Pirie is that the case is 20 some odd years old and the life of a seriously ill child depends on the outcome. Unfortunately, to her superiors, the case is not nearly as important as new evidence that has recently been discovered in Italy regarding the decades old, and still unsolved, kidnapping of a baby boy that also resulted in the murder of his mother. The boy was the grandson of a wealthy, and powerful, local industrialist who blames the police for mishandling the situation. Pirie knows she risks her career pursuing the missing persons investigation while also following up on the new leads in the kidnapping case. But when she suspects there may be a link, if only tenuous, between the two, she plunges forward knowing the dead do not give up their secrets easily ... if ever.

A Darker Domain is a superior mystery novel in so many ways, from the meticulously drawn characters and the intricately developed plot to the superbly written narrative. The seamless use of backstories to fill in the details during Pirie's investigation helps keep the story briskly moving along and the alternate points of view provide depth and interest. The coincident reopening of both cases from a plot perspective is, at best, improbable, yet the author makes it seem credible, linking the two in unexpected, though plausible ways. The overly melodramatic ending is a minor quibble.

A Darker Domain, written as a non-series novel, is a gripping mystery thriller at its best. It is rather unfortunate, however, readers won't have the opportunity to see Karen Pirie in action again.

Special thanks to HarperCollins for providing an ARC of A Darker Domain for this review.

Review Copyright © 2009 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved.

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Synopsis (from the publisher): Fife, Scotland, 1985. Heiress Catriona Maclennan Grant and her baby son are kidnapped. The ransom payoff goes horribly wrong and Grant is killed. Her son disappears without a trace -- until 2008, when a tourist in Tuscany stumbles upon dramatic new evidence that reopens the investigation.

Fife, 1984. At the height of the politically charged national miners' strike, Mick Prentice abandons his family to join the strikebreakers down south. Labelled a blackleg scab, he's as good as dead as far as his friends and relatives care. Twenty-three years later, a young woman walks into a police station to report Mick Prentice missing. Detective Karen Pirie, head of the Cold Case Review Team, wants to know why it's taken so long for anyone to notice.

For Pirie, already immersed in the Prentice investigation, a second foray into a 1980s investigation gone cold -- this time, the Grant kidnapping -- offers an opportunity to make her mark. But it's sure to come at an extremely high price. As she works to unravel these mysteries, two decades of secrets will lead Karen Pirie into a dark domain of violence and betrayal -- darker than any she has yet encountered.

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