Celebrated characters like Detective Carol Jordan and psychologist Tony Hill reappear in Val McDermid's new crime novel 'Insidious Intent,' which investigates a twisted criminal called the Wedding Killer.
by David Compa
Val McDermid’s first crime novel, “Report for Murder,” was published in 1987 while the Scottish native worked in as Northern bureau chief for a Sunday tabloid. In the three decades that followed, McDermid penned more than thirty other novels spanning four crime series as well as half a dozen stand-alone novels, several short story collections and nonfiction books on forensics and private investigators. McDermid’s body of work has earned her the nickname “Queen of Crime” in the British press, a title bestowed, in earlier times, on Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers and, more recently, P.D. James and Ruth Rendell. At her best, McDermid has an agile, curious mind, adept at plumbing the psyches of diverse characters with insight and sensitivity, and an ability to make forensic science and technology accessible, even as she tips her hat to the techniques and plot devices of an earlier era. “Insidious Intent,” the tenth to feature psychologist Tony Hill and Detective Chief Inspector Carol Jordan, opens on an average woman, sitting alone at a wedding reception: “If Kathryn McCormick had known she had less than three weeks to live, she might have made more of an effort to enjoy Suzanne’s wedding.” An attention-grabbing line, it also echoes other famous openings: P.D. James’ “A Certain Justice,” which foreshadowed first victim's murder before killing her off a third of the way into the book, and Gabriel Garcia Márquez’ novella “Chronicle of a Death Foretold” (“On the day they were going to kill him, Satiago Nasar got up at five-thirty in the morning to wait for the boat the bishop was coming on.”) McDermid limns the essence of Kathryn’s life before introducing her murderer, who’s crashed the wedding by pretending to know the groom. This audacious opening plays to McDermid’s strengths at writing multiple points of view, which she expertly uses to tell this twisted tale through the eyes of the novel’s victims, the perpetrator and the Yorkshire crime team who hunt him. 'Insidious Intent' is a bold gamble that has the potential to shake long-cherished characters from their emotional complacency. Chief among the crime fighters are Dr. Hill, the talented yet socially awkward