Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Nicola and Val and hiding behind the sofa

Recently, a friend sent me a link to a recording of an Edinburgh Festival event - Nicola Sturgeon, the leader of the Scottish Nationalist Party, interviewing Val McDermid, the famous Scottish writer of detective novels. Somehow or other, despite my enthusiasm for the detective genre, I'd never read one of her books, but I thought it sounded an interesting combination so I had a bit of a watch.

It was very clear that Nicola Sturgeon is a great admirer, and I think that Nicola Sturgeon is very impressive - so I soon decided to download the first book in the series about psychologist and criminal profiler Tony Hill and policewoman Carol Jordan. ( And then the next, and the next, and the next... having a rest now - my nerves need it!)

The two are both complex characters: attractive, intelligent, talented and troubled. Mind you, it's not surprising they're troubled, considering all the things Val McDermid puts them through. Not only do they track down serial killers, but they not infrequently become victims, or at least collateral damage themselves: there are some very grisly descriptions, and if I could have read the books from behind the sofa, believe me, I would have. (Incidentally, I wonder what Dr Tony Hill would say about the psychology of people who read books about such terrible things? I worry about that, I really do...)

The plotting is brilliant, and the can't-put-down factor is off the scale. But, as in so many of the best detective series, it's the developing relationship between the two hunters which is the really riveting factor - and it's this which, for me at any rate, makes me want to keep reading the series - though the insight into the mysteries of the criminal mind also grips. Incidentally, the series was televised under the title of Wire In The Blood, with Hermione Norris and Robson Green, but I missed that too.

The first book in the series is called The Mermaids Singing, and here is a link to the interview. (But apologies to readers outside the UK; I don't think you'll be able to see it.)


  1. I was inspired by that interview as well so I downloaded Mermaids too. Gripping, compulsive - but there were quiet a few pages I skimmed exceedingly lightly. I am a wimpy reader, and often had to think of Val MacDermid's cheerful & powerful personality as a way of saying to myself "The book'll end okay, it will, it will.".

  2. Yes - I can't imagine how she can bear to be in that world while she's writing. But my goodness, she's good!