Splinter the Silence

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Splinter The SilenceWritten by Val McDermid — Trust the high-priestess of crime writing to take a headline-grabbing phenomenon and turn it to her nefarious advantage. Not long ago, the only trolls anyone talked about were in Tolkien books or fairytales. But we live in the 21st century, the internet is king and trolling is a verb – and a very dangerous verb at that.

Internet trolls, and the disastrous effect they can have on the people they target, are at the heart of this, the ninth in the Carol Jordan and Tony Hill series. The suicide of a charity organiser well known for her outspoken views makes headlines. Jasmine Burton took her own life after being viciously bullied by trolls following an appearance on a national TV discussion show where she said convicted rapists should never be allowed to work in jobs that would give them direct contact with women and children.

Friends and colleagues thought she was handling the cyberbullying well, but the fact that she walked into the River Exe estuary, her pockets full of stones, and drowned, tells another tale. Something doesn’t add up for criminal profiler Dr Tony Hill as he reads the story online. But before he can begin to analyse just what might be wrong, he has other more pressing matters to deal with – would it surprise you to know that they involve Carol Jordan?

Fans of the series know this pair all too well, and at the end of Cross and Burn their relationship was on a pretty shaky footing. Carol is out of the force and throwing herself – literally – into transforming the barn conversion which previously belonged to her late brother. Gone is the sleekly groomed, bitingly incisive DCI. In her place is a dog-walking, sledgehammer-wielding near-recluse. The only thing that has stayed the same for Carol is her love of a drink or three, and that’s what brings Tony back into her orbit. They speak only occasionally these days, but Carol has no one else to turn to when she is caught drink driving and the pair are reluctantly thrown together as she awaits her court appearance.

They need something to pass the time – and sudoku, crosswords or jigsaws aren’t really this pair’s style – but Tony has a brainwave. Where’s the harm in a bit of pretend investigating? And what better subject than the death of Jasmine Burton? Then a strange thing happens as Carol has her day in court and suddenly the investigation becomes all too real. Worryingly, the deeper they dig, the more suspect deaths they uncover.

Val McDermid’s books are devoured by crime fiction readers the world over and she deserves her place at the top of the tree. She spins the yarns for three completely different series of books. Jordan and Hill are probably the best loved of her characters, and rightly so. Some series authors seems to lose momentum after a while but in Splinter the Silence McDermid comes out with all guns blazing, keeping the action going at breakneck speed and the reader glued to the page. The combination of psychologist Dr Tony Hill – a man who sees patterns and connections where others see chaos, and the cool analytical skills of Carol Jordan are a potent mix, with their ‘Will they? Won’t they?’ relationship providing a frisson of added drama. I’m already thinking about my top five books of the year, and this one is definitely on the list.

Splinter the Silence is released 27 August. For more Scottish crime fiction click here.

Little, Brown

CFL Rating: 5 Stars

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