Out of Bounds by Val McDermid

Out of Bounds is so good. So good. Even as a longstanding Val McDermid fan, that praise doesn’t come lightly. I don’t think I’ve quite read all thirty of her books (there were a few early Lindsay Gordons I may have missed), but it comes damn close. I went through a shaky patch were I just wasn’t enjoying much of her new output, including the wonderful Tony Hill and Carol Jordan series. Luckily that period seems to be over. I’ve enjoyed the newest two Tony and Carol books increasing amounts, and now along comes Out of Bounds which is a damn good addition to the Karen Pirie stable.

Hand on heart honest? Before Out of Bounds, I wasn’t aware there was a Karen Pirie stable. I remembered the character from the recent Skeleton Road, but while I’ve also read both The Distant Echo and A Darker Domain, I had no idea they formed a continuous series. Granted, years have passed since I read the latter two, but it does suggest that Karen isn’t as memorable and distinct a character as Tony and Carol, or even McDermid’s early playthings, Lindsay Gordon and Kate Brannigan.

So all things considered, I didn’t have the highest of hopes going in to the novel. Needless to say, I came away very pleasantly surprised. Tightly plotted and populated with a broad cast of enjoyable characters, Out of Bounds fell firmly into my hard-to-put down category. The identity of the killer remained a surprise right up until the final pages, which I always enjoy. Sometimes McDermid will reveal the murderer from the off and track their mind-set as the book progresses, but you can’t beat a good old whodunnit. I particularly enjoyed the weaving in of two separate cold cases, so there was almost always new evidence or a fresh break to keep the reader’s interest piqued.

The only plot strand that felt sliiightly out of place was Karen’s budding friendship with a group of Syrian refugees, which, although politically relevant, didn’t necessarily feel like a natural fit. It all tied together in the end, but the way the killer was eventually bought to justice had a touch of convenience to it – an acknowledgement that okay, we’re ninety percent in, we have to contrive a way to nail the bastard somehow.

Still, on the whole Out of Bounds made for a bloody good read, and once again has me excited for where McDermid goes next.

Many thanks to Little, Brown and NetGalley for providing a free copy in exchange for an honest review.

[Read from 22-26 August 2016]

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