Book review: Broken Ground by Val McDermid

Monday, August 27, 2018 Permalink

I have to say I don’t really mind whether Val McDermid offers we readers a standalone book or something featuring Tony Hill / Carol Jordan or DCI Karen Pirie. They’re always enjoyable and those centred around the latter are (of course) always a little different because Pirie heads up a cold case team (the Historic Case Unit). 

Book review: Broken Ground by Val McDermidBroken Ground
by Val McDermid
Series: Inspector Karen Pirie #5
on August 23rd 2018
Source: Hachette Australia
Genres: Crime Fiction, Police Procedural
ISBN: 1408709368, 9781408709368
Pages: 432

Alice Somerville's inheritance lies six feet under in a Highland peat bog - a pair of valuable vintage motorbikes buried by her grandfather at the end of World War II. But when Alice finally organises their recovery, she finds an unwelcome surprise -a body with a pair of bullet holes . . . and Nike trainers. DCI Karen Pirie of Police Scotland's Historic Cases Unit is called in to unravel a case where nothing is quite as it seems.

Meanwhile an overheard conversation in a cafe draws Karen to the heart of a murder she thought she'd already prevented.

As Karen gets closer to the several truths, it becomes clear that not everyone shares her desire for justice. Or even the idea of what justice is.

Of course when I talk about Pirie’s team I’m using the term loosely as she only has one offsider, DC Jason Murray who she likes but thinks is a bit of a plodder. Although here the recently-appointed Assistant Chief Constable has given her a new Detective Sergeant who’s a bit of an arrogant prick and seems as if he’s been planted with Pirie to uncover some dirt on the DCI and her successful unit.

There are two cases (three if you count the overheard-conversation-at-the-cafe case) at play here and thankfully none intersect by some inexplicable set of circumstances.

When the book opens Pirie’s team is working on a cold case involving a series of rapes from 20 years earlier. One of the victims finally died as a result of injuries and so now they’re after a murderer.

Pirie’s sidetracked however by the discovery of a body, buried with some motorbikes stashed at the end of World War II. Of course, had the victim died then it’d be beyond her team’s 70yr remit, but the body’s been remarkably preserved in the Scottish peat and of course the limited edition Nike Airs are a dead giveaway. #seewhatIdidthere?

McDermid introduces a lot of interesting forensic detail here – not just via the body buried, but the third case I mentioned earlier which comes down to he said / she said and trajectory of blades and the like.

I like that McDermid doesn’t always offer up the happily ever after we’d like in terms of justice and there’s a strong sense of realism as a result. I think it’s mirrored in real life… that those in law enforcement sometimes take what they can get for the victims and their families.

(As an aside) I also enjoyed the glimmer of romance here for Pirie. Of course her line of work means she’s not particularly trusting.

Was anybody that straightforwardly good-hearted? Or had she become jaundiced by the job? Had she grown so underexposed to the milk of human kindness that she didn’t trust it when somebody poured her a glass of it? p 227

(And I love that phrase… ‘milk of human kindness’.)

This is another great book in this consistently reliable and entertaining series though it does mean I know there’ll be a wait until we meet DCI Pirie again and I’m not good with delayed gratification!

Broken Ground by Val McDermid will be published in Australia by Hachette and available in paperback from 28 August 2018.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes.


Comments are closed.