Let the Dead Speak - Val McDermid

This is a hugely popular series & like most of its kind, you probably enjoy some instalments more than others. I’ve read them all & this was not one of my favourites but that may be down to the format of the story more than content which I’ll try to explain.


If you read the last one, no doubt you remember the ending. It was a corker. The old cast of regulars was broken up & here we get to see where everyone landed.


First, the elite police unit known as ReMIT has been reformed with some changes. “Oldtimers” like DI Paula McIntyre, DC Stacey Chen & a few others are back. They’re joined by a couple of green recruits & Carol Jordan’s replacement, DCI Ian Rutherford ( a pompous, preening ass who is all hat & no cattle but I digress…).


Their inaugural case is disturbing to say the least. A defunct Catholic convent that also served as a home for disadvantaged girls was purchased by developers & construction was going just fine until they dug up the front yard. Bones…lots & lots of bones. By the time Paula & her team get their bearings, the remains of 30-40 young girls have been unearthed.  Hmmm…probably won’t be solved by tea time then. That alone would challenge the new team but the site has a few more surprises to throw at them.


Meanwhile ex-cop Carol Jordan is filling her days with DIY projects, long walks & staying sober. Then a couple of job opportunities pop up. One involves Vanessa, Tony’s witch of a mother. The other is an offer from an old adversary who’s started a version of the Innocence Project. They want her to reinvestigate a murder case to see if the wrong man was convicted.


As for Dr. Tony Hill, he’s just trying to survive. Life in prison is a daily struggle & he needs something to distract from his current reality. He was in the middle of writing a book when arrested & decides to pick up where he left off. Not like he doesn’t have the time.


Initially, the plot lines play out separately in short chapters. They alternate & are told in turn through the eyes of Carol, Tony, Paula, Stacey, a couple other ReMIT members plus a serial killer we meet along the way. Interspersed with these are passages from Tony’s book which signals a change of narrator & story line. And I have to admit I found this frustrating at times.


The constant switching of multiple POV’s (often at a critical moment) made it a challenge to become fully engaged in any of the story lines & I was probably at the 60% mark before I got an inkling of that need-to-know feeling. It took that long for each to develop enough to get me hooked. Also, I’m not sure I understood the point of Carol & Vanessa’s little adventure. There are plenty of other threads running & I felt it could have been left out entirely without affecting the overall story. I can’t help but feel I missed something there.


By far, my favourite parts were those involving Paula & Stacey. They’re struggling to adapt to ReMIT’s new direction & suffering under Rutherford’s rule (did I mention he’s a pompous, preening….oh ya, I did). They band together to get the job done in spite of him & deliver some of the best dialogue. The story surrounding the convent provides some suspense in what is otherwise a more personal instalment that serves as a transitional book in the series.


Eventually the plot lines intersect but as with real life, not everything is neatly tied up by the end. If you are a new reader, this is not a good place to start. There is so much history between these characters that I recommend beginning with an earlier book. So while this didn’t fully work for me, perhaps it was necessary to alert long time fans the series is heading off in a new direction with fresh starts for some of the characters. It will be interesting to see where the author takes them next.