Val McDermid is one author who knows exactly how to pull me into a story. In A Darker Domain, she sets the hook with just a couple of opening paragraphs that end with: “This is how it begins.” From that point on, I couldn’t put this book down.
It’s June, 2007, when a young woman goes to the Glenrothes Police Station in Fife, Scotland, to report a missing person. The individual is a miner named Mick Prentice, and he has been gone for 24 years. Why did no one report him gone? Because it’s been presumed that he was a “blackleg,” a miner who, during the horrific miners strike in 1985, left his family to work as a scab. No one reported him missing because his wife and child, his neighbours and former friends, no longer cared to know anything about him.
The case comes to Detective Inspector Karen Pirie, of the Cold Case Review Team. Technically, Prentice isn’t a cold case, since from all the meagre evidence, he’s alive somewhere. But Pirie is intrigued by the possibilities, and she is moved by the young mother’s plight.
The real problem is that Pirie is already deeply involved in a more politically important cold case. New evidence has appeared in the 1985 abduction and murder of Catriona Maclennan Grant, only daughter of the richest man in Scotland and one of the wealthiest in the world. Catriona was beautiful and talented. She was kidnapped with her infant son and, in the course of the ransom handover, she was shot and killed. Her child disappeared and is presumed dead.
But now a clue to the case has appeared in, of all places, an abandoned villa in Tuscany. And the Grant family hires its own journalist to handle the publicity and the investigation.
McDermid carries the two cases back and forth from several different points of view, and it works beautifully. The suspense in harrowing, especially when a dead body turns up in a very surprising spot. What Pirie knows, learns and doesn’t know is all carefully plotted, and while you may figure out some of the story, you won’t uncover it all. This is definitely first-class McDermid, and that is very, very good.
(theglobeanemail.com, Mar 13, Margaret Cannon)