Book Quote:

“Psychopaths are individuals who don’t have the capacity for empathy or remorse. How their actions affect other people is a matter of complete indifference to them. They lie, they try to control the world so it runs their way. The smart ones are glib and manipulative and learn how to fit in.”

Book Review:

Review by Guy Savage  (SEP 24, 2011)

Scottish author Val McDermid is arguably best known for her Carol Jordan/Tony Hill series. This series (7 in all so far), featuring psychologist Tony Hill and Detective Inspector Carol Hill became the basis of the television programme Wire in the Blood. McDermid also created the Lindsay Gordon series and the Kate Brannigan series as well as a number of stand-alone mysteries. Now comes Trick of the Dark — an excellent crime novel that may well herald the start of an exciting new series.

The protagonist of Trick of the Dark is lesbian Manchester-based psychiatrist Charlie Flint who lives with her civil-union wife, dentist Maria. Charlie, currently barred from practice pending the outcome of an investigation conducted by the General Medical Council, and vilified by the press, is troubled by her past involvement in a court case. One morning, she receives an anonymous package of press cuttings concerning a notorious murder case. The case is the bold battering murder of a groom just moments after his wedding took place in the grounds of Charlie’s old Oxford College. The murder of the groom, an extremely wealthy young entrepreneur named Philip Carling, has apparently been solved; his business partners have been charged, tried and convicted for his death.

Charlie discovers that the now widowed bride is Magda Newsam–the daughter of Charlie’s old college mentor, Dr. Corinna Newsam. Intrigued by the connection and the anonymous package, Charlie travels to Oxford at Corinna’s insistence. Corinna is convinced that Philip was not murdered by his business partners, and Charlie is shocked by Corinna’s revelation that the newly-widowed Magda has begun a lesbian relationship with successful business entrepreneur and celebrity author, Jay Stewart. While Corinna is alarmed by the fact that this is a lesbian relationship, she also claims that Jay is a serial killer. Charlie senses that Jay moved in when Madga was at her most vulnerable, and Charlie silently acknowledges: “if my daughter was running around with Jay Macallan Stewart, I’d be shouting for the cavalry.”

With a sense of obligation to Corinna, and with spare time on her hands, Charlie begins to investigate the crime. There are some aspects to Philip’s murder that leave a stench, but what’s rather more disturbing is that a series of mysterious deaths surround Jay’s phenomenal career. Whenever someone appeared to stand in the way of Jay’s success, they met a violent end. How can so many murders be in one person’s past?

Trick of the Dark is an interesting tale–not just for the mystery that surrounds the fabrications of Jay’s celebrity life, but also because the book is not shy about tackling lesbianism. While Charlie investigates the truth behind the stories of Jay’s past, her relationship with Maria, normally loving and nurturing, is under a considerable amount of strain. It doesn’t help matters that Charlie, bewitched by a lesbian self-help guru is considering straying outside of her monogamous relationship. The intelligent but flawed Charlie Flint would make a marvelous series detective, so for this long-term Mcdermid fan, I hope we see many more Flint novels to come.

There are some complaints that the book has a “lesbian agenda” which seems nonsensical to this reader. Mcdermid’s characters, and a vast number of them in the book are lesbians, are a fairly mixed bunch–the good, the bad, and the indifferent. One of the book’s major themes explores the real vs. fictional self–from minor lies to full scale deception, and sexual orientation falls into some of this. The issue of lesbianism raises its head at every turn, and Mcdermid shows, with great sensitivity, how sexual orientation deeply affects the lives of her characters. At one point, for example, Charlie is accused of expressing “lesbian solidarity,” and at other times she faces bigotry and must decide whether or not to let it pass or make a stand. This is, therefore an unapologetic novel written by a lesbian, featuring lesbian characters and touching on issues that affect lesbians. If you are bigoted enough to have a problem with that, then you’re about to miss an excellent McDermid novel.

AMAZON READER RATING: from 24 readers
PUBLISHER: Bywater Books (August 23, 2011)
REVIEWER: Guy Savage
EXTRAS: Excerpt
MORE ON MOSTLYFICTION: More Val McDermid reviews:


Lindsay Gordon Mysteries

Kate Brannigan Mysteries

Dr. Tony Hill & Carol Jordan Mysteries


September 24, 2011 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , ,  · Posted in: 2011 Favorites, Class - Race - Gender, Mystery/Suspense, United Kingdom, y Award Winning Author

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