On a bleak February day, Billy Watson, the skipper of the fishing boat Bonnie Pearl, makes an unwelcome catch — the body of a drowned man...
With its engaging characters and intriguingly twisty plot, ranging from Perth to Paris, Val McDermid’s latest thriller is an elegant and richly satisfying read.
Still Life (Little, Brown £20) is the latest novel in Val McDermid’s series featuring DCI Karen Pirie, who runs a cold case unit in Edinburgh. When a body is pulled from the sea, it turns out that the dead man was the chief suspect in the disappearance of his brother, a high-ranking Scottish civil servant, a decade ago. Set in a Scotland divided by the issue of independence, and with murmurs that a viral pandemic is on its way, it’s a reminder that the Pirie novels are developing into some of McDermid’s best work.
McDermid in contrast weaves her plots spendidly. Here she manages to keep one’s interest in both investigations. She juggles them beautifully, and you don’t find yourself wishing she would leave one case and get back to the other. She is also expert at modulating the pace of her narrative. She knows that in a long novel there is a need for quiet patches when the tension is relaxed and her readers, like her characters, can pause to re-charge their batteries. She is good on meals (always important) and on place.