It may seem odd to re-read mystery books, the point of which is to give clues toward an ending. Why re-read a book when you know the solution to the problem which is the point of the book? I don’t re-read lots of mysteries. There are loads of mystery writers that I like and read who aren’t represented on my list of Books I Have Read Three Times Or More, simply because I haven’t re-read them. Most of Val McDermid’s books I have not re-read, but I’ve read Killing the Shadows 5 times. Why this one and not the others? you may ask. Of course I’m happy to tell you.
1. I like Fiona Cameron. As I write about the books I re-read I’m finding that characters count for a lot in the books that I choose to re-visit. If I like the characters I tend to go back. If I don’t like the characters, I don’t. There are other factors as well, but this one is key. This is the only one of McDermid’s books in which Fiona Cameron is the main character. Dr. Cameron (another female academic, spot a trend anyone?) appears in two other books, as a background character (The Distant Echo), and in an off-screen consulting role (Fever of the Bone). I hope that FC will show up in another book as a main character but so far no luck.
2. I do love the story — mystery writers get knocked off using the methods written about in their books. Oh the deviousness of it all. This also means that writers are important characters in the story, and the writing process is discussed as it relates to these characters. I do enjoy that as well.
3. There is something about the way this particular book is written that draws me in. It starts with FC working at a serial murder case in Toledo in Spain (very interesting case) that you think might be the main point of the story, but that just ends up being an introduction to the key characters. The particular bit I like in the early part of the book is FC settling into work with the data provided by the police in Toledo — with a large carton of coffee. My kind of academic detective consultant. The action doesn’t really kick in until after the Spanish trip is over. And the action when it gets going really ramps up. This is one suspenseful book, very tightly written, and intelligently put together. 1Mom liked it very much for all of those reasons when I passed it to her earlier this fall.
McDermid is of the writers I now follow so that I can read their current books. Two of hers have been published this year, and I’m feeling behind because I haven’t read either yet. I’m looking forward to both. Most of the books include aspects of the psychological thriller as well as the police procedural. This can clearly be seen in the Tony Hill/Carol Jordan books — where Tony is the psychological profiler and Carol is the police detective. I got hooked on these reading The Wire in the Blood. Start there if you dare. “Wire in the Blood” is also the title of a British TV series based on the Hill and Jordan characters. (It stars Robson Green which is reason enough to watch it if you can find it.)
McDermid’s books tend to be dark and not very hopeful at times — I think I like Killing the Shadows because it has a lighter touch than some of her others. I enjoy reading them all, but KtS is the one I return to. It is probably that grace thing again.