Wednesday, January 27, 2010

"Beneath The Bleeding" by Val McDermid

The fifth book in the series featuring detective Carol Jordan and loopy psychiatrist Tony Hill begins with the death of a popular football player. It's particularly difficult to determine whether the death was accidental, suicide or murder. Another subplot that carries along with this involves a young man as he goes through all the stages of preparation in order to commit an act of terrorism - in this case, detonating a bomb. As for the football player, when another mysterious death occurs, Tony Hill uncovers a possible link between both victims to a particular high school, but his theory is one that Carol dismisses as unlikely. Tony sorts through the clues in both cases, all while stuck in a hospital bed after getting hit in the knee by an axe, thanks to an escaped mental patient.

"Beneath The Bleeding" is a decent addition to the series, if slowly paced. The plot twists that finally pop up towards the end of the book are well done, particularly in regards to the bombing subplot, where nothing is quite as it seemed. The problem with reviewing the book is the lack of information I can give about the plot without summarizing two thirds of the whole thing - something the back cover of the book does itself. That's what I mean when I say "slowly paced". Then you have Tony's injury, which seems to be included simply because McDermid had knee surgery herself and knew what it was like and wanted to write about it. It adds little to the plot, often in fact slowing it down. What's worse is that both plot strands have nothing to do with each other - McDermid had the chance to pack all sorts of action, suspense and twists into the separate storylines, but instead is happy to let them both coast along while Tony and Carol spend a large amount of time arguing with each other and internally analyzing their unusual relationship. I've never been a fan of authors who try to do the whole "CSI" thing and have two or more disparate crime storylines running concurrently. It generally means there's not enough "meat" to fill just one story. I don't care that in real life detectives investigate several cases at once. This is fiction - I'm sure poetic licence would allow for one great, juicy story instead of two, three or four mediocre ones.

Anyway, I cut McDermid some slack because she is a good writer and the relationship between Tony and Carol is admittedly much more complex than what you find in most other books. If you're a fan of the author or the series, this is worth picking up. Other readers may want to find something a little more exciting, or perhaps go and get "The Mermaids Singing", the first novel in the series.

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