Buy it now direct from Bywater Books
Val McDermid is a national treasure. Unfortunately, it’s not
our nation. This marvelous Scottish crime writer of twenty-four novels has an
unimpeachable reputation as one of our leading literary figures, and her
latest, Trick of the Dark, is yet another example of her considerable
Charlie Flint, a police psychiatrist undergoing a serious
career crisis, is called back to Oxford, her old stomping grounds, to aid a
former professor who wants Charlie to investigate the death of her daughter’s
husband. The stumbling block? Her daughter’s very new lesbian relationship with
one Jay Macallan Stewart—successful author, former dot-com businesswoman,
mountain climber and possible serial killer. As if Charlie’s plate wasn’t full
enough, she’s also contemplating cheating on her own wife.
As with all McDermid’s work, Trick of the Dark is
sumptuous and literary without being esoteric. She has a craftsman’s eye for
detail and a winning way with the creation of voices. Her Charlie Flint is
totally different and distinct from her Jay Macallan Stewart, whose voice we
get to hear as she’s writing a memoir that McDermid quotes from at length.
But all the style and detail would mean little if the
mystery at the heart of the story wasn’t so damn involving. McDermid wastes no
time. She hits the ground running and pauses only long enough for the reader to
gather his breath and consider the possibilities before she starts working
through the twists and turns again. You think you might possibly have a sort of
inkling of who’s behind the trail of murders, but you don’t really figure it
out until seconds before Charlie does—masterful plotting combined with an
extraordinary sense of timing.
You’d expect a writer of McDermid’s reknown to come through
with great main characters, but I even found her minor characters
interesting—Charlie’s wife, Maria, for example. There’s so much going on that
it’d be easy to lose her in the shuffle, but she’s rarely out of Charlie’s
thoughts, even though many of those are guilt-induced. McDermid does an
admirable job of depicting her as one of the sources of Charlie’s strength and
intelligence. She brings Maria and their relationship to the forefront as often
as she does the mystery, never losing sight of either.
If you’ve read Val McDermid before, Trick of the Dark
will be a great addition to your collection. If you haven’t, this standalone
work is an excellent starting point. But be warned that you might become
addicted. Ah well. It’s cheaper than crack.
And you couldn’t get a better literary high.
Reviewed by Jerry Wheeler