Out of Bounds by Val McDermid: book review

Out of Bounds by Val McDermid Book Review

What is this about?: Karen Pirie is a Historical Crimes Unit cop, focused on well, historical crimes. In this book, there are two cases, and it feels a little like a bridge for Karen to get past the death of her lover and partner Phil in previous books. It left me wondering who she was before his death and I find myself contemplating going back to the beginning to check this series out as a whole.

What else is this about?: It’s weird, I thought this was a good introduction to Karen because it focused on how she was dealing with a death of a loved one, so essentially everything after this means she’s changed, she’s not the woman of the previous books.

Stars: 4/5

Blurb: Internationally bestselling author Val McDermid is one of our finest crime writers, whose gripping, impeccably plotted novels have garnered millions of readers worldwide. In her latest, Out of Bounds, she delivers a riveting cold case novel featuring detective Karen Pirie.

When a teenage joyrider crashes a stolen car and ends up in a coma, a routine DNA test reveals a connection to an unsolved murder from twenty-two years before. Finding the answer to the cold case should be straightforward. But it’s as twisted as the DNA helix itself.

Meanwhile, Karen finds herself irresistibly drawn to another mystery that she has no business investigating, a mystery that has its roots in a terrorist bombing two decades ago. And again, she finds that nothing is as it seems.

An enthralling, twisty read, Out of Bounds reaffirms Val McDermid’s place as one of the most dependable professionals in the mystery and thriller business.

I was first introduced to Val McDermid through her Tony Hill and Carol Jordan series and have read her other titles over the years, but I have to admit, it’s been awhile since I’ve picked up one of her titles. I expected the intensity of the Hill/Jordan books and got something else altogether.

When I say intensity, I mean in the way that the crimes in the Hill/Jordan series tend to make me squirm and skip a few paragraphs here and there. Karen Vail is nothing like that. She’s a cop in the Historical Crimes Unit, leading the charge with Jason, her only other colleague. Phil, her boyfriend and partner, was killed in a previous book and it quickly becomes apparent, Karen is still grieving.

Picking up the fourth book in a series made me antsy because I was sure I would be missing important information from others in the series, but you know what, I didn’t feel like that at all. The focus here is on Karen, on her working through her grief over a man she loved. I didn’t feel like I needed to know exactly what their relationship was like because what mattered was that Karen loved him and she missed him, and that was crystal clear in this book as she tried to wortk her way through her grief. Worjking with Jason also gives readers a small insight into the kind of man Phil was – it’s quite elegantly done and doesn’t make you feel like you missed out on anything.

I felt sad for Karen and I add that here because it’s not often that an author can pull off grief as well as this I find. There was nothing left for her in this but to work through her loss, and she did it in unhealthy ways, but she worked her way through that too. Work kept her sane, but not working herself into the ground. I often find that books like this, focusing on two characters or a squad/team tend to be very insular for the characters. Here, Karen makes friendships with people that seem like that will last beyond this book and revealed more her as a character. Which, sorry you had to die Phil, but I think it was worth it for Karen’s character.

The cases that Karen is working on are focused on family in different ways and the losses people bear and in some cases commit. Karen is smooth as she manipulates people, including her remarkably insecure bosses who are threatened by her into getting what she wants. Personally, I enjoyed that. The whole bit about bosses standing in the way of good cops yadda yadda has been done way too much and to death. It highlights her intelligence, her people skills and her ability to deal with BS as a woman in a man’s world.

The pacing in this book is spot on, even if part of working in the Historical Crimes Unit actually means waiting around for tests, court documents etc to come in. Karen, instead of just waiting around, starts investigating another case and the result is a richer book for it.

I am utterly excited to have discovered a new series by Val McDermid. Karen is relatable, determined and savvy enough to make for a marvellous character to read about.

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