Monday 5 July 2010

We Are Family - My Dad and I Review Val McDermid

First of all, a reminder of what my Dad and I like and dislike...

LIKES: thrillers, spy novels, war stories and books with elves in (the elves can swear their heads off as far as he's concerned). Oh, and maps. He bloody loves maps. If you ever meet him, for goodness' sake don't ask him for directions. Not even to the bathroom.

: romance, books that have too much swearing in (I guess that's my Dad not going to read my next book either, then - I thought it was just my Mum I had to keep away from it). Also doesn't like horror, and books with vampires, pterodactyls and the living dead in them. Also, something called an ungoliant. No, I have no idea either - I think my Dad has been at the sherry too.

: Philip Marlowe to Miss Marple, Inspector Morse to Homicide.

LIKES: noir, hard-boiled, capers, PI novels, police procedurals, warped, quirky and funny books.

: cosies - especially those where the protagonist has a heavily featured hobby (I once got a gluten allergy from reading a book where the heroine made bread every three pages), or books where an animal solves the crime. Unless it's a dinosaur (as in Eric Garcia's wonderful series about basil addicted Vincent Rubio).

I'm not a big fan of serial killer books (and I'm not talking books that just happen to have a serial killer in (I love books by Steve Mosby, Mark Billingham etc)), I mean books where it's all about the quirks. The more patterns or quirks the killer has, the more blood is spilled and body parts mutilated, the more good writing, character development and a decent plot seem to go out of the window. The ones I don't like are where the author seems to think that making their killer a murderer of blue eyed women with one arm (the women, not the murderer), who drowns his victims in an increasingly violent way in a vat of hot chocolate, while narrating The Rhyme of The Ancient Mariner, drawing a picture of a squirrel on the wall and scattering rose petals around the bathroom is all the character development and justification the avid reader needs. A-ha - the serial killer was burned by a scalding mug of hot chocolate as a baby, force-fed him by his mother Rose, a blue-eyed ex-Womens' Royal Navy sailor who lost an arm in a bizarre accident involving a rabid squirrel.

I'm also not big on spy thrillers and medical thrillers. If I see a jacket blurb which mentions the White House, and the words 'explosive' and 'conspiracy' and which has a shadowy picture of someone rappelling down a big building, carrying a large knife dripping blood, or an enormous syringe, then I'm more likely to put it down in a hurry than slap in into my shopping basket with glee. I have the same reaction to 'Knights Templar' and 'Illuminati'. I will pass all of those to my Dad.

I don't like gratuitous anything - but then, one person's gratuitous is another person's prerequisite. My Mum would definitely find most of the books I read have gratuitous sex, violence and swearing. I find the books she likes have gratuitous cats. And butlers. And people being poisoned with rare poison from the Three Kneed Scarlet Guatemalan Tree Frog. And gentility. As for the sex, well, if it fits (oo-er missus) then it's fine. I read a mystery a few years ago where the woman was asleep and the man slid one hand between her thighs and the other into her mouth. And this was supposed to be erotic. I'm sorry, but if anyone slides anything in my mouth while I'm sleeping, then I'm probably going to dream it's a chocolate eclair and chomp down hard. On the other hand, there are plenty of books that do it well, but I'm not going to mention any of them just in case you tell my Mum.

Raymond Chandler to Miss Marple, Homicide to Inspector Morse.

Anyway, enough of that. On to the reviews:

Published: 2009
Publisher: Sphere
Setting: Bradfield and Worcester
Protagonist: DCI Carol Jordan and Dr Tony Hill
Series?: 6th
First lines: "It all comes down to blood in the end. Some wrongs you can get past. File under lessons learned, dangers to avoid in the future. But certain kinds of betrayal need to be answered. And sometimes only blood will do."

What Donna Says:
FEVER OF THE BONE is the sixth book in the Carol Jordan and Tony Hill series. Carol Jordan is under pressure - her new boss is threatening to break up her team, and has also insisted that she can no longer use Tony as profiler any more. So her team needs to bring in results. As well as a nasty little cold case involving a mother and child who disappeared over ten years ago, they're also faced with a serial killer targeting teenagers who use a social networking site. Tony, on the other hand, has been seconded to another division, and is coming to terms with the inheritance left to him by the father he never knew. And the inheritance is not just financial.

Val McDermid does a brilliant job of bringing every single character to life - from the members of her team down to the most minor of bit parts. She shows us the lives of the teenagers, the suffering of the grieving parents, even the shock of the unfortunate people who find the bodies, and makes us care about the characters. She also shows us how the horrific cases affect the team, giving the reader a real insight into how the work takes its toll on every one of them. At times it made me feel very sad.

It's a thrilling, chilling, thoroughly gripping read - a story about families, relationships, legacies and the impact of the past on the present. Great stuff. Intriguingly, Val McDermid and/or the publishers created a social networking site called RigMarole. I've not been onto it, so can't say what it's all about (or, indeed, whether it's still going) but apparently you can also interact with some of the book's characters. In general, the Jordan/Hill series have not been amongst my favourites of Val's books - not because I don't enjoy them, but simply because I prefer the standalones which, for me, have been increasingly excellent. However, I have to say that FEVER OF THE BONE is way up there amongst the best.

What Donna's Dad says:
Once again the main characters are Dr Tony Hill and DCI Carol Jordan. This time Carol has a new Chief Constable, who thinks that the profiling can be done more easily and more cheaply by what is a new fledgling force of coppers trained by the professional profilers. The plot centres around the murders of a group of teenagers, the first in Worcester, the others closer to home in Bradfield. Tony is recruited by the police in Worcester to profile the killer there. As Carol has been instructed not to use him, she uses one of the police profilers to try to find the killer of the local youth. It is not until Tony recognises that all of the killings can be connected that progress is made, and the story comes to a surprising end. The reasons for the murders comes as a surprise, and it looks as if Tony and Carol will finally manage to get together. All of the main characters, the police, are likeable. There is one character who is just a pathetic loser.

I felt it was extremely well written and thought out, it was a very enjoyable read. I have not watched the televised series as I think it would spoil the mental image that I have of Tony Hill and Carol Jordan. This has happened before with televised series, I had a mental image of Smallweed in Bleak House which was turned upside down by Phil Davis's interpretation. (Donna: thanks for that little aside, Dad). My mental image of Tony Hill is that he is about 6 foot 2 inches, mid brown hair going slightly grey, medium build thickening at the waist.Ordinary looking, age about 32 years. Carol Jordan is about 5 foot 8 inches, blonde hair, not a beauty but with a reasonable figure, does not work out to maintain her size but takes life as it is. Slightly older than Tony, age indeterminate (or will not tell).


  1. Interact with McDermid´s characters? No thanks, I like being alive!

    Reading her books is chilling enough :D

  2. Hilarious reviews. I don't think this is my cup of tea but will try McDermid's stand-alones, but, hopefully, without gratuitous anything, especially violence.

  3. Good reviewing, Moores! I agree, Val McDermid brought the characters into seeming to be living beings rather than book characters. And family and the past had such a big part, in this one, both in the mystery plot and the main character's life. Others say this one is a bit diferent from the previous ones in this series--I have not read any others in the series, but did read this one, and think the writer has a gift of bringing life to a plot and characters, and did the settings well, also.

    I do enjoy hearing of your individual likes and dislikes, and your mum's too, Donna. :-) And I am most like you in my reading tastes, but now am thinking about eclairs...hmmm...

    Thanks, Moores!

  4. Dorte - LOL - very funny.

    Kathy - there is only good writing in the standalones, and none of it is gratuitous :o)

    Bobbie - I am ALWAYS thinking about eclairs...

    Bobbie -