Book review: Out of Bounds by Val McDermid

Thursday, September 22, 2016 Permalink

I’m a fan of Val McDermid and was delighted last year with the return of her Tony Hill / Carol Jordan series via the impressive Splinter the Silence.

Her latest, Out of Bounds, features Detective Chief Inspector Karen Pirie who I vaguely remembered from previous novels. I was slightly concerned that – as I wasn’t a devotee – I might struggle to work out who was who or suffer from backstory ignorance. But it wasn’t the case and I really loved this book.

Book review: Out of Bounds by Val McDermidOut of Bounds
by Val McDermid
Series: Karen Pirie #4
on August 30th 2016
Source: Hachette Australia
Genres: Crime Fiction, Police Procedural
ISBN: 1408706911
Pages: 464

When a teenage joyrider crashes a stolen car, a routine DNA test could be the key to unlocking the mystery of a twenty-year-old murder inquiry. Detective Chief Inspector Karen Pirie is an expert at solving the unsolvable. With each cold case closed, justice is served. So, finding the answer should be straightforward, but it's as twisted as the DNA helix itself.

Meanwhile, Karen finds herself irresistibly drawn to another case, one that she has no business investigating. And as she pieces together decades-old evidence, Karen discovers the most dangerous kind of secrets. Secrets that someone is willing to kill for . . .

Because I couldn’t remember what I’d read in the series, I wasn’t sure if I knew that Karen’s partner (at work and in life) and – presumably a key character – had been killed off. She’s still struggling as a result, but that grief and forced resilience makes for a more complex and stronger character.

It helps that she’s focused and, though a little too direct and lacking in empathy, is working on this and showing more tolerance; something particularly important given the occasional bumbling nature of her Cold Case Unit offsider DC Jason Murray.

The case at hand is one involving the DNA recovered during the car accident. One of the victims is a familial match for the DNA from a twenty year old rape/murder. Open and shut Karen and Jason think as they set off looking for the father of their hospitalised joy-rider. And you guessed it…. it’s not that easy.

In the meantime Karen finds herself drawn to a case that isn’t her own: the murder of a young man whose mother was the victim of an alleged terrorist attack just over 20 years before. A mother and son both murdered, despite the time between deaths, is unusual and Karen starts looking into the recent murder, as well as the explosive device placed on a small plane, which killed the victim’s mother and three others in 1994.

It’s not long before she’s stepping on toes and in trouble with her boss and fellow coppers, but… she’s adept in wangling out of strife and seems to manage it time and time again.

McDermid likes her quirky characters and Karen is certainly that. Not naturally sociable she reaches out to friends and steps out of her comfort zone on a number of occasions in this novel… often finding people are surprisingly accepting and that perhaps, she’s not as socially-inept as she believes herself to be.

I initially worried that McDermid / Karen pursuing two cases might distract our attention and dissipate or diminish our interest in one or both, but that wasn’t the ‘case’ – this time around,  for me anyway. (Although it’s certainly been the case with other authors and novels.)

Both cases offer a lot of twists and turns and there are secrets aplenty. Some relevant, some not.

I was also actually pretty happy with the end of this book which is a rarity. It’s not wrapped up neatly and involves a level of acceptance, which again offers something a bit different.

So this was an enjoyable novel by McDermid and – when I get time – I must seek out more in the Karen Pirie series.

Out of Bounds by Val McDermid was published in Australia by Hachette and is now available.

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


  • Stormi D Johnson
    September 22, 2016

    I have a couple books from this author but not read them yet but I really want too! I need to lay off the review books and read some of my own for a while! 🙂

    • Debbish
      September 22, 2016

      Yes I know the feeling Stormi! Val McDermid’s very popular in the UK and here in Australia – very well known. I love her work.

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