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Sunday, September 06, 2020

Still Life by Val McDermid

Still Life was written during the Covid lock down (because what else is a writer going to do when quarantined?).  Val McDermid remains high on my list of authors I never want to miss, and in addition to her settings (I love Scotland), her engrossing characters and plots keep me coming back.  The Tony Hill/Carol Jordan and the Karen Pirie series are favorites, but she also has plenty of standalones, and a couple of nonfiction books, including Forensics:  The Anatomy of Crime that I intend to read some day.

Still Life has cold case DCI Karen Pirie involved in two cases.  A traffic accident ends up revealing a skeleton in a van in a garage that has been there for at least ten years. As Karen and Jason investigate, they believe the body belongs to one of two women.  However, in the midst of this investigation, Karen is sent to the Firth of Forth where a body has been discovered--connected to another cold case.   

Juggling two cases, Karen must also deal with the release from prison of the man who killed her lover.  

As usual, McDermid writes an absorbing tale with characters who have decided personalities of their own.  Jason Murray, Karen's DC, is gaining confidence and is a  loyal subordinate, and a new and interesting character is Daisy, who shows promise for future books.

In the last chapter, after both cases have been wrapped up, comes the change that has affected us all:  the virus "that had been a whisper on the wind" as Karen, Jason, and Daisy investigated "had taken firm root in Scotland."  All three "were warned of the lockdown that was to begin in the morning.  They'd be working from home, whatever that meant in practice."  What a conclusion.  The case wrapped up, but their lives on hold.

I'm hoping McDermid will write a book dealing with Karen's team and crime during lockdown.

Read in June; blog review scheduled for Sept. 6.

NetGalley/GroveAtlantic
Police Procedural/Cold Case.  Oct. 6, 2020.  Print length:  448 pages.  



24 comments:

  1. I'm going to admit: I haven't ever finished a McDermid novel because I was reading the first one and found it a bit too graphic for my taste. Then again, that was a few years ago and maybe I would approach it differently now. Do you recommend Hill/Jordan or Pirie series to try first?

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    1. You could also try her Kate Brannigan P.I. series set in Manchester, England. I don't remember those being overly graphic.

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    2. Thanks so much for the rec! I do read some thrillers or psychological suspense which has violence, so I don't know why my reaction to it. I'll look for Brannigan or Pirie series to start.

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    3. The Tony Hill (he's a forensic psychologist and criminal profiler) series is very dark and disturbing, but the Karen Pirie series doesn't have those graphic scenes. I will have to try the Kate Brannigan series.

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  2. I think a book detailing how the team deals with lockdown would be a very interesting read. I'm curious how that would play out.

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    1. I'm curious about how that would play out as well. :)

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  3. Still Life sounds great, especially the way she ends it with a lockdown. So perfect for this year. And that quote at the end of your post totally made me laugh. :D

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    1. It is timely to have the book written during lockdown and concluding with the characters facing quarantine. The pandemic provides a new twist for crime writers!

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  4. A fellow McDermid fan here. I started out with her Kate Brannigan series and then her standalones. I skipped the Tony Hill series because-- at the time-- the TV version was on BBCAmerica, and it starred an actor I didn't care for at all. Silly reason not to read the books, but there you go! I'm behind in reading the Karen Pirie series, but I have all the books lined up, ready and waiting.

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    1. Like Rita, I did find the Tony Hill series full of twisted serial killers and graphic scenes, but I liked the Tony Hill/Carol Jordan relationship. I need to try Kate Brannigan. :)

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  5. First, i adore that image and it is now my prayer to get through the day, Val Mcdermid never ceases to amaze me with how much she writes — I mean she must have got this written and published in less than a year? Do you think I could start with This book for the Karen Pirie series?

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    1. I do think you could start with any of the Karen Pirie books. McDermid gives enough information about background for you to relate to the characters without needing every detail of their past cases. She concentrates on the current plots. :)

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  6. Just a thought here. Since all of you seem to like McDermid, have any of you read the Ian Rankin series, or Denise Mina? I've read two by Mina years ago. Never tried Rankin, though my S-I-L loved his books. Thoughts? I think the only other Scottish author I've read is Peter May, read two by him and enjoyed them.

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    1. It has been years since I've read either one. Don't know why--enjoyed the ones I read. Sam can help on Ian Rankin. :)

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    2. Thanks for quick response. I will start following Sam now, lol.

      Denise Mina has a new(ish) one out that takes a plot from a real killing in Scotland, I believe. It seemed to be stand-alone so I was considering it. It was either Conviction or The Less Dead-- I have to check further.

      Btw, if anyone likes an Irish female detective series, I read all the books for Claire McGowan (Paula McGuire series).

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    3. I've read a couple of McGowan's and liked them!

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    4. I love Denise Mina (found out years after the fact that her last name is pronounced M-EYE-nuh not MEE-nuh like I'd thought!). I thought her Garnet Hill and Paddy Meehan trilogies set in Glasgow were excellent. I'm behind in her Alex Morrow police procedural series, but like it as well.

      Conviction and The Less Dead (which was released last month) are both standalones.

      I've met Ian Rankin a few times now, and I love listening to him talk about his writing-- well, talk about anything actually. I tried the first of his Rebus mysteries and found it to be "meh". Rankin himself says that the series really didn't begin to find its stride until Black and Blue, so I've got a copy of that and need to find the time to read it.

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    5. Oh I have been saying her name wrong all along. I heard from someone else that Garnet Hill was excellent. I read two Alex Morrow awhile ago.

      That's so nice that you got to meet Rankin! My SIL had been passing her paperbacks by him to me when I'd see her, and I passed them back again, unread. I was a different type of reader back then. Some series do go through growing pains, and I'll look for Black and Blue to read then. Thanks for the hints!

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    6. You're welcome. We readers are all in this to enable each other, right? ;-)

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  7. This really sounds very good. I've enjoyed her several of her standalones but the one series I really want to read is the Tony Hill and Carol Jordan. I've watched a couple of the BBC shows but it's been a long while now that I think I could really enjoy the books without thinking how they differ from the tv show.

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    1. I like the Tony Hill/Carol Jordan series, but they can be disturbing. Of course, if you've watched some of the television series, you already know that! :)

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  8. I don't think I've read anything by this author. I'll probably start with her standalones first.

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    1. McDermid is Scotland's Queen of Crime. Hope you find something you can enjoy, Melody!

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  9. I cannot say I was that productive during this lock down. Haha! I like the idea of mystery set during the pandemic. A romance novel seems like it wouldn't be easy, but a mystery . . . That would work.

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