Written by Val McDermid –- These days, bookshop shelves and Amazon listings are packed to overflowing with crime fiction. Some is poor, some good, some great. And the select few are absolutely brilliant. Which is where you’ll find the work of the uber-talented Val McDermid. Cross and Burn is her 27th novel, and brings together her best known crime solving duo – psychologist Tony Hill and former detective chief inspector Carol Jordan. It’s their eighth outing in print.
Well, perhaps brings together is pushing it a bit, because as the book begins Carol and Tony are estranged. McDermid’s The Retribution ended with Carol’s brother and sister-in-law brutally murdered in their own home by Jacko Vance, the psychopath who has been a recurring character in previous Jordan and Hill books. Carol blames Tony for their brutal deaths and has withdrawn from all connections to her previous life.
As the book opens, we ourselves in the fictional English city of Bradfield, where most of the series takes place. Carol is living in the house where the tragedy occurred. On the surface, little of the old Carol remains. She has quit her job, cut all ties with her former colleagues and taken to extreme DIY with a vengeance. In short, Carol is obliterating all trace of what happened in her new home – with a sledgehammer, drill and screwdriver – and living in the midst of the havoc she is creating.
Tony, meanwhile, is seeking a simpler life. He has made his home on a houseboat, where there is a place for everything and everything is in its place. Budget cuts mean his services are rarely called upon by police forces and he is following a more academic path. And every day he misses Carol, terribly.
Paula McIntyre is another character who will be familiar to McDermid fans. She was a member of Carol’s now disbanded MIT team, and as Cross and Burn begins, she is about to start a new job, as a detective sergeant and the right hand woman to DCI Alex Fielding at Skenfrith Street CID. She is thrown straight into the deep end with the discovery of a woman’s mutilated body in a derelict squat on the seedier side of town. The victim’s face has been battered beyond recognition – and that gives Paula a moment’s pause, because at first glance, the dead woman looks just like Carol.
Then a second Carol lookalike turns up dead and Paula goes to the only people she knows who are up to the job. But can Tony and Carol ever be reunited after what happened? It takes a devastating turn of events to put them on the first tentative steps to reconciliation.
Val McDermid excels in creating the intricacies of human relationships, and I adore the interaction between her characters, whether they be old, established favourites or newcomers. Everyone – walk-on part, or centre stage – is finely crafted and hugely believable. The story builds momentum as we see it develop through the eyes of Paula, Carol, Tony, and the man who is taking the women and holding them captive before brutally discarding them like an unwanted pair of shoes.
My only quibble was with the ending. After such a meticulous build-up I felt things were tied up too quickly. Loved the journey though.
Cross and Burn is available for Kindle and as a hardback; the paperback arrives on 27 February.
CFL Rating: 4 Stars
Published by Little, Brown, print eBook, Kindle. Paperback out February 27