Killing the Shadows (Val McDermid)

Killing the shadows ISBN: 0006514189
Publisher: HarperCollins 2001
Pages: 561
Links: WorldCatRead OnlineLibraryThingGoogle BooksBookFinder

Given what a fervent mystery fan I am, I’m surprised I discovered Val McDermid quite so late. In fact, I only just picked up this book last week, and was instantly drawn in.

Central to the book is Fiona Cameron, an academic and professor, whose research abilities are often employed by the police. The story begins with a request to Fiona to assist the police in Toledo, Spain, with what seems to be a spate of serial murders. Fiona flies across, happy to assist, and also thankful to be away from England at the culmination of a disastrous murder trial. We later find out that her professional advice was wantonly ignored during this investigation, leading to a false arrest, and a very ignominious verdict for the police. All this, of course, means that there’s still a murderer out free. And finally, there’s yet another serial killer on the loose in England, this time one who’s killing the authors of serial killer novels. This particular killer hits Fiona closest to home – her partner, Kit Martin, is one such writer of mystery and gore, and as his peers get slaughtered one by one, it becomes obvious to both Kit and Fiona that very soon, he’s next.

So, there you have it – a slightly convoluted plot, and a surfeit of serial killers, real and literary. I have to admit, I was intrigued by the entire premise, and found myself racing through the pages (the thought of skipping work to finish reading did occur a few times!).

Having said that, I found the denouement disappointing – it was both too tidy and also too unclear to be satisfactory. Without revealing too much, I expected the three plots to tie in much more, and felt let down that they hadn’t. The first half cleverly built the story up to a pitch, only to be let down by the rushed second half.

On the whole, though, I thought the book was a decent read – gripping, fast paced and based on an interesting premise. The main characters – Fiona, Kit and Steve – are reasonably well developed, and there are some enjoyable little insider digs at authors and the whole book publicity circuit.

I’ve been told that I managed to pick up the worst Val McDermid for my first try, and that the others are much better. I’m well inclined to give them a try!

Maya Chandrasekaran

Maya Chandrasekaran

Director - Strategic Partnerships at
"I'm a confessed bookaholic, but haven't had the nerve (or ingenuity) to make a career out of that. So I do the next best thing - I spend my free time reading, buying, borrowing and discussing books... and books about books."

Maya always has three books going at the same time - a different book for every mood. She loves exploring new authors, but every now and then she sinks back into the comfort of old favourites like murder mysteries and Regency romances. A corporate butterfly, Maya lives and works in Bangalore, India.
Maya Chandrasekaran

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