Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Cross and Burn by Val McDermid

Cross and Burn
by Val McDermid
4 stars - not the best in the Tony Hill series, but well above average
ALR Green - nice Border Collie dog in a supporting role

I work at a corporation which employs around 70,000 people worldwide. My office is located at the central campus, a cluster of buildings which provides workspace for well over 5,000 people, over 1,000 of which are in the same building as I am.

I say this, because as much as my colleagues deny it, statistically, I likely cross paths with people who are hiding secrets. Secrets of wife beating, pedophilia, and other disturbing behaviors. And that, friends, is the notion that Val McDermid capitalizes on in her novels. Not just that these people walk among us and pass for normal, but that their twisted views of the world can put the most innocuous of us at risk. Chilling and perhaps best not pondered for too long.

I've read and enjoyed every one of the Tony Hill series. Well, enjoyed might be too strong a word. I'm both fascinated and disturbed by them. Fascinated to see how the plots are resolved and very disturbed by the graphic details regarding brutal acts of violence by horrifically evil villains.

The latest edition is no exception. There's a serial killer out there. One who takes women, imprisons them, subjects them to horrors, and then savagely murders them. And at the center of it all is Tony Hill, who is, himself, a wildly dysfunctional person whose quirky mind uniquely enables him to mimic the thoughts of serial killers.

There is a BBC series based on the novels, but it only touches the surface of Tony's malady of the mind (and you can watch the series and read the books without one interfering with the other). 

This installment gets just four stars instead of five because it wasn't as strong as its predecessors, but it is still much better than the average mystery. Ms. McDermid presents a cast of very human characters and just about any person who makes an appearance, however brief, is given enough background to be a very real part of the story (as opposed to a plot convenient prop).

The ending came a bit abruptly for me, but it did set things up nicely for another Tony Hill book.

Points deducted, though, for perpetuating the myth that a person who's never changed a light bulb can, on her own, suddenly become a general contractor. I don't care how clever you are, doing home improvements is more than reading a manual.

Oh, and the dog? You'll see. It's all good.


  1. I do love a good mystery, and I've never read this series. You've piqued my curiosity, though!

  2. I'll have to watch for the Tony Hill series on BBC. This also looks like a book and author I need to find, especially with a dog involved.