Val McDermid’s How the Dead Speak... answers some of the questions left hanging over her popular characters, DCI Carol Jordan and the profiler Tony Hill, at the end of their last murder case. As Jordan licks her wounds at home, her old team has an inflexible new boss — and a case involving the discovery of a number of girls’ bodies in the grounds of an old Catholic orphanage. This plot runs parallel to developments in Jordan’s life as she tries to rebuild her friendship with Hill, who is struggling to salvage something from the ruins of his own career. It is a touching development in their relationship, but feels more like an interlude than a fully realised novel..
The skeletons of 40 abused children under a lawn, and the remains of eight young men, is no laughing matter, but the way Val McDermid channel-hops among her four storylines allows little time for reflection. Like many cop shows How the Dead Speak is engrossing at the time, but forgotten minutes later.
Clinical psychologist and profiler Tony Hill and detective Carol Jordan are not in good places, literally or emotionally, as Val McDermid’s How the Dead Speak opens...
This might be well into the Hill/Jordan series, but McDermid’s storytelling is as classy and compelling as ever.
This is McDermid on exemplary form, generating the requisite suspense but never forgetting that the characterisation of Hill and Jordan is a key ingredient.
As with most contemporary crime fiction, there is a tension between revelation and justice. It is handled in a sotto voce way here. Proof is not hunch. Escaping the law is not the same as being held to account by the law. The law, also, fails. I do not think it is any kind of spoiler to say that McDermid fashions a finale which tees up the next thriller in this sequence admirably. It is also almost comical in places. In one of Tony Hill’s excerpts, he writes: “In crime fiction, the culprit is generally the least likely person. In real life, the opposite holds true. Usually, it’s the most obvious person”. Is it the most obvious person here? I leave that for you to enjoy. But staring you in the face is never a good look.