DCI Karen Pirie is always a welcome sight for crime-fiction fans, even if her arrival is certainly not welcomed by either villains or her police superiors.

Her ability to rub people up the wrong way was one of the reasons she found herself running Scotland's cold case squad with just one fellow officer.

But in this novel, just as its predecessors, Pirie will certainly not stay in her box looking through dusty old files and solving historical cases.

Cold cases turn decidedly hot when Karen is around, with an even chance of modern-day murders to spice up her investigations.

In Still Life she finds herself covering two cases, and acquiring a new colleague in the shape of enthusiastic young detective constable Daisy Mortimer.

Daisy as initially part of a team investigating a dead body found in the Firth of Forth by a lobster fisherman.

The cops soon discover the dead man was a civil servant in Scotland who disappeared a decade earlier, and with the potential for embarrassing political fallout the expendable Karen is brought in to lead the team.

Karen was already busy with another case, looking into the discovery of a skeleton in a campervan found hidden in a garage.

Soon Karen's little team is scouring Scotland – and later Ireland, France and northern England – painstakingly following up puzzling clues and interviewing a wide range of suspects and witnesses.

While very different, both cases have links to the art world, and and McDermid weaves a complicated web of forgery and secret identities.

A novel by Val McDermid is always very readable, and she never short-changes readers, her satisfying stories expertly entwining believable characters and faultless plots.

Still Life keeps Pirie in the top ranks of fictional coppers alongside Inspector Banks and Tom Thorne, but it isn't one of the McDermid's best novels.

The first half of the book is absorbing rather than gripping, plodding through those clues and interviews while bringing back old friends, and a couple of sub-plots from Karen's personal life don't really go anywhere.

Thankfully just past the halfway mark the story gathers steam, the plot strands come together, and you won't be able to put Still Life down till you reach the final page.

Released on October 6