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McDermid, Val - 'Fever of the Bone'
Paperback: 512 pages (Feb. 2010) Publisher: Sphere ISBN: 0751543217

FEVER OF THE BONE is the sixth in Val McDermid's long-standing series featuring clinical psychologist Tony Hill and his friend and police colleague, DI Carol Jordan, set in the fictional northern town of Bradfield. This series has also been televised as Wire in the Blood.

At the beginning of this book, Carol's old boss, Brandon, has retired, and there is a new chief constable, Blake. Blake is keen to cut costs; he wants to axe Carol's cold case team of detectives and redeploy them into the main run of CID work, and to use a profiler from the National Police Academy instead of paying to hire Tony Hill. Tony is at a critical point in his personal life; he has discovered the name of the father he never met, who has left him a substantial amount of money in his will. He now has to decide whether to find out more about his father and the reasons for his disappearance from Tony's life.

When young people in the Bradfield area start disappearing after using the Rigmarole social networking site, Carol has to manage without Tony's help in investigating a possible serial killer. Meanwhile Tony is instructed by the West Mercia police force to investigate the murder of a young girl in Worcester; as he has been left a house in Worcester by his father, this seems too good an opportunity for him to miss. Both Carol and Tony have to work hard at their respective cases, and assisted by the police teams, try and delve in to the secret life and internet use of the teenagers as best they can to find some clue as to how and why the killer picked these young people. As in previous novels in the series, Tony focuses on empathy in getting into the mind of the killer to try and find him.

In a cold case related subplot, DCI Sam Evans is on the trail of a husband who claims his wife left him, and disappeared with his baby several years ago. When the husband's computer hard drive turns up during work on his old house, this gives a promising new source of evidence for the cold case team.

FEVER OF THE BONE is a great addition to this popular series. Val McDermid clearly has her finger on the pulse of contemporary culture with her use of a social networking site as a key plot device, with the text of the teens' chat and online messages ringing true. The depth of characterisation of not only the main characters but the more minor members of the police team is particularly impressive given the page turning nature of the plot. The plot line regarding Tony's father and wicked mother Vanessa is sensitively handled, leaving an unusual chink of hope for Tony's future peace of mind.

Read another review of FEVER OF THE BONE.

Laura Root, England
March 2010

Details of the author's other books with links to reviews can be found on the Books page.
More European crime fiction reviews can be found on the Reviews page.

last updated 5/04/2010 15:24