Review: Out of Bounds by Val McDermid

isbn9781408706923Out of Bounds is Val McDermid’s thirtieth book, and the fourth of the Karen Pirie series. In this outing, Pirie – of Police Scotland’s Historical Cases Unit – finds herself tangled in the web of an intriguing trio of cases, only one of which begins as official police business.

Pirie is working on a case where a drunken teenage driver’s DNA is a partial match for an unsolved murder in Glasgow years before. Trouble is, the teenager was adopted, and a barrage of privacy laws prohibit her from easily acquiring the identity of the birth mother and father. Then she stumbles into the path of DI Noble, who she perceives is mishandling the investigation of the supposed suicide of a man whose mother died in what was assumed to be an IRA terrorist bombing years ago. Pirie is certain the man’s death is linked to his mother’s death, and her unsanctioned investigation ruffles plenty of feathers. And as if that wasn’t enough, recent upheaval in Pirie’s life means she’s prone to nocturnal wanderings through the city streets, which leads to her meeting a group of Syrian refugees. These men are lonely, ashamed of their inability to work, and deeply scarred by what has happened – and continues to happen – to their homeland. Karen takes it on herself to find a solution – to find them a mission and a purpose, lest they be left to rot.

McDermid elegantly weaves these plot threads around each other, and never once ties herself in a knot. The Syrian refugee plot is a bit of a throwaway, and the wannabe editor in me thinks this part of the novel should’ve been sliced for the sake of its pacing – but social commentary in fiction is important, and really, it doesn’t take away from the plot’s mainstays.  Some of the characters are a bit flat – caricatures of familiar faces, like ‘the Mint,’ her bumbling sidekick, and the boss who’ll do anything to see her removed from the police – but thankfully the spotlight never shines too far away from Karen, whose emotional heartache and determination to forge ahead makes her an enchanting character.

Out of Bounds is a tightly-plotted police procedural, and bears all the qualities that have established Val McDermid as one of Britain’s leading crime novelists.

ISBN: 9781408706923
Format: Paperback (234mm x 153mm x mm)
Pages: 448
Imprint: Little, Brown
Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group
Publish Date: 25-Aug-2016
Country of Publication: United Kingdom

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