Written by Val McDermid — In a crowded genre where the word ‘girl’ has become so overused in book titles, it’s a breath of fresh air to encounter a cover that makes you turn to the dictionary. Insidious adjective: proceeding in a gradual, subtle way, but with very harmful effects. Synonyms include stealthy, underhand, deceitful and deceptive – in short… sneaky. It’s a fine description of the perpetrator of the crime at the centre of this story and could also serve as the author’s mission statement.
Insidious Intent is number 10 in the series featuring DCI Carol Jordan and psychological profiler Dr Tony Hill and it is the most shocking to date. After a period when Carol was carrying out her own version of Grand Designs on the barn conversion she inherited upon the death of her brother, she has thrown off the overalls, dropped the sledgehammer and returned to the place where she can do the most good.
As boss of the newly-formed ReMIT – a Regional Major Incident Team based in the fictional northern town of Bradfield – she’s under pressure to deliver results, fast. She has put together an elite group, but they’re soon floundering. Is the much vaunted ReMIT approach about to fall at the first hurdle?
A burning car found in a remote lay-by on the North Yorkshire Moors is found to contain the smouldering remains of a woman. Kathryn McCormick was an office manager, an unassuming type who lived alone. She’d recently attended the wedding of a colleague, alone; since then she’d had a few dates with a man she met that evening. As efforts to trace the mystery wedding guest hit dead end after dead end, the team realise they’re dealing with someone who is forensically savvy. Three weeks on, another burning car yields another victim. Can Carol, Tony and the team uncover any clues that might reveal the culprit?
Some authors would take an easy route here, developing the investigation but little else. But this is Val McDermid, so rest assured there’s plenty more to keep us occupied. First and foremost is the mental state of Carol Jordan. She’s on the wagon and struggling to keep off the booze, which has served as her crutch for so long. The frustrations of a case that appears to be going nowhere are compounded by an overpowering sense of guilt. This is a woman not averse to bending a few rules to help the course of justice, but when they’re bent for her benefit, she finds it hard to stomach.
In Splinter the Silence (reviewed here) a possible drink driving charge was hushed up so that Carol could head up the new ReMIT team. The ripples of that act are still at play, and smart-aleck local journalist Penny Burgess is hot on the trail of the story. Meanwhile, other members of the team are struggling to cope with dramas of their own. Computer whizz DC Stacey Chen is conjuring up wicked ways to deal with an untrustworthy ex-partner, while DS Paula McIntyre has problems at home that may soon require Stacey’s particular style of assistance. And Tony Hill? Well he’s got a brand new, purple anorak!
Insinuating its way through all of that is the unsettling presence of a man who has no qualms at taking innocent women and killing them in the hope of assuaging his crazy pursuit of revenge. Bit by bit, we learn something of his story, and it makes for unsettling reading. The Wedding Killer is a particularly nasty individual and there seems no way of stopping him. Have Carol and Tony finally met their match?
So it’s hats off to Scottish crime fiction author Val McDermid for this book. It may be 22 years since we were first introduced to Jordan and Hill in The Mermaids Singing but she is still firing on all cylinders. The plot is cleverly constructed and the tension is at times unbearable. A real cracker – add it to your ‘to be read’ list immediately!
CFL Rating: 5 Stars