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Book review: Suicides puzzle troubled friends in Val McDermid thriller

Correspondent
Why would several feminists commit suicide? @valmcdermid's compelling new novel delves into modern crime

'Splinter the Silence' By Val McDermid. Atlantic Monthly, 416 pages, $25

British author Val McDermid's thrilling novels about detective chief constable Carol Jordan and clinical psychologist Tony Hill delve into the vagaries of modern crime and the psychological motives that propel people to do the unthinkable.

McDermid continues her high standards in her compelling ninth outing with Carol and Tony, whose personal and professional relationship take myriad detours. While "Splinter the Silence" excels as a gripping crime fiction, the novel also is a tale about the power of friendship, the struggle to stay sober and the importance of allowing people into your life.

"Splinter the Silence" finds Carol at loose ends. No longer with the police, she spends her days restoring a barn and drinking while Tony continues his clinical psychology work in Bradfield, England. The two are bound by a "complicated matrix of feelings," although these platonic friends are no longer speaking. But when Carol is arrested on a DUI charge, Tony is the only one she can call and, much to her dismay, he moves into her house to act as her personal sobriety coach.

Despite her troubles, Carol's brilliance as a detective has not been ignored and she is drafted to lead a new Major Incident Team. One of the team's cases involves the supposed suicides of several feminists who have been outspoken about the issues of women and children exploited by sex traffickers. The common link is that each woman had been the recent victim of a cyber bully. As Tony sees unusual twists in the deaths, Carol deals with the challenges of leading an elite police squad.

McDermid expertly moves the plot through surprising turns with acute details of police procedures as well as rich character studies. Neither Carol nor Tony is likable, but McDermid exposes their humanity while making readers care very much about what happens to them. Their reunion is uncomfortable at first as McDermid gracefully shows how these two must again learn to rely on each other.

Throughout her 30-novel career, McDermid has creatively explored the human experience.

Oline H. Cogdill can be reached at olinecog@aol.com.

Meet the author

Val McDermid will make a rare South Florida appearance at 8 p.m. Jan. 12 at Books & Books, 265 Aragon Ave., Coral Gables, 305-442-4408; at 2 p.m. Jan. 13 at Palm Beach Gardens Branch Library, 11303 Campus Drive, Palm Beach Gardens, 561-626-6133; and at 7 p.m. Jan. 13 at Murder on the Beach, 273 Pineapple Grove Way, Delray Beach, 561-279-7790.

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