A Darker Domain (Inspector Karen Pirie #2), by Val McDermid

Seven stars

McDermid returns with a novel that gives Karen Pirie the central role she lacked in the series’ opening novel. Now a Detective Inspector with Cold Cases, Pirie is approached by a woman who wishes to report her father missing after twenty-two years. Pirie learns that Mick Prentice was presumed to have left for Nottingham during the miner’s strike of 1984, where he worked as a scab. However, the more Pirie learns, the less likely Prentice appears to be prone to cross the union, no matter his financial situation. She agrees to poke around, off the books, already on bad terms with her superior. When handed a high-profile case, Pirie heads out to meet with Sir Broderick Maclennan Grant, whose daughter and grandson made headlines in the late 1980s. After Catriona Maclennan Grant and her son, Adam, were kidnapped, a group of purported anarchists contacted the family and demanded a significant ransom. During the ensuing exchange, Catriona was shot and killed, leaving the kidnappers to flee with baby Adam. For the past twenty years, Sir Broderick has been unsure what might have happened to his grandson. Distrusting of the authorities, Grant liaises with a journalist in hopes that she can use her skills to investigate and hopefully crack the case wide open. Pirie works on a few leads, though both cases seem to be going nowhere. None of the other miners who left Scotland had seen Mick Prentice since heading to Nottingham, though Pirie did uncover proof that life in the Prentice household was anything but peaceful. This fuels her belief that Mick abandoned his family, though there is no clear lead as to where he might have gone. The Grant cases takes Pirie to Italy, where the kidnappers might have fled with Adam, offering him a new identity and life, wiped clean by the little one’s young age. With her superiors breathing down her neck, Pirie pushes forward to piece together the new evidence and offer two families the answers they have lacked for the better part of twenty years. With all cold cases, answers are sometimes met with frigid responses for all parties involved. Another fabulous novel, chock-full of flashback narrative, that pulls the reader in from the early pages and refuses to let anyone rest before justice is served.

While I did make mention of Pirie’s smaller role played in the opening novel, McDermid has changed this by placing her in the middle of these two convoluted cases, which push the authorities to their limits. McDermid build a great plot around numerous well-developed characters, each bringing their own flavour to the story. With two cases running parallel to one another in the narrative, McDermid must juggle all aspects effectively, keeping the story from getting too confusing or bogged down. As with any narrative dealing with cold cases, use of flashbacks fuels the story and the reader learns much from the use of past and present. However, McDermid has a means of using varied timelines effectively while not convoluting the larger picture. The reader can confidently navigate the story without losing their way as they seek answers. Additionally, the novel boasts realistic dialogue peppered with colloquialisms and Scottish settings, allowing McDermid to write using what she knows best while delivering a superior product. Readers will not be let down by this novel, which paves the way for another explosive story to come.  

Kudos, Madam McDermid for an exciting novel. It kept my attention and had me wondering where you’d take your twists until the very end. 

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