Out Of Bounds – Val McDermid

EVEN Val McDermid’s least-good books are better than the best from most other thriller writers.

She has an admirable ease in telling her tales of police investigating evil men, drawing you deeper into an intricate plot as you turn the pages rapidly.

Out Of Bounds isn’t in the league of A Place Of Execution for originality or the Tony Hill novels for tension, but is still a very satisfying police procedural with some characters to love and a few to hate.

We see the return of Edinburgh detective Karen Pirie, feisty boss of Scotland’s two-handed Historic Cases Unit, still suffering from the tragic fallout of her previous outing The Skeleton Road.

Unable to sleep, Karen has taken to wandering the streets of Edinburgh in the middle of the night and getting obsessed with cases that aren’t actually her own.

She is particularly interested in the apparent suicide of Gabriel, a young man whose mental health problems meant nobody believed his conspiracy theories.

What intrigues her is that Gabriel’s mother, a well children’s TV presenter, died in a helicopter crash blamed on the IRA because her fellow passenger was a Northern Ireland minister.

Carol’s off-the-book investigation stirs up a hornet’s nest amongst the great and good, diverting her from her official case, the rape and murder of a shopgirl years before.

This case has its own interesting twist: a familial link to the unknown attacker’s DNA is found on a teenage joyrider lying in hospital in a coma following a fatal crash.

Two separate cases, and a side story about Syrian refugees, are artfully entwined by McDermid in a book that’s engrossing from the first chapter.

We don’t expect a masterpiece from McDermid every time, but we do expect a novel we want to read in one sitting.

And with Out Of Bounds we get just that, so lock the door, turn off the phone and open the cover.

David Knights