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Crime procedural set in EDINBURGH

17th October 2023

Past Lying by Val McDermid, crime procedural set in Edinburgh.

Karen Pirie 7.


Crime procedural set in EDINBURGH

Karen is hunkering down in a bubble with Daisy, her subordinate, in a loaned apartment. It is early 2020 and lockdown has been initiated and everyone is coming to terms with the new restrictions (and hoping they won’t last very long…. little did they know). The storyline is very strong on the protocols introduced at that time and the references took me straight back to this point in time, and revisiting this difficult period raised a touch of anxiety. One of the characters is personally affected by the escalating situation as the story moves along.

Given this is no.7 in the series, the characters are well embedded and beautifully brought to life. Karen is perhaps quite solemn in this one compared with previous outings but the team nevertheless feels quite familiar. The historical case team is working from home. Team member Jason receives a call highlighting the discovery of documents in the archive of a deceased crime novelist. The details contained therein are suspiciously close to the unsolved and mysterious disappearance of university student Lara, who, it is assumed, is dead. And from there this becomes a novel within a novel and the author clearly relishes the layered story-telling she has crafted within the world of crime writing. Her pleasure and enthusiasm is contagious and washes over the reader.

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The novel and its intricacies demand focus, as there are several levels to keep straight but as this is an experienced novelist, the story moves along in a well-crafted way. There are political musings, whisky choices to be made and chess moves to ponder. There are bookish asides, literary festivals, writing workshops, and accolades for authors, whose books might just appear on the Jackie and Jimmy Book club list, sponsored by a high street chain (you don’t have to think long and hard about the inspiration behind this 😉).

Edinburgh, even at that difficult time, shines through, it is incredibly transportive.

I listened to this as an audiobook and the narrator has a wonderful Scottish burr. However, every now and then – probably at the turn of a page – there was a slight but marked pause, which – once registered – became a pretty annoying feature.

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