Tuesday, 17 May 2011
Trick of the Dark ~ Val McDermid
Charlie Flint is a senior lecturer in Clinical Psychology and Psychological Profiling accredited by the Home Office to work with the police as a profiler. Or rather she was. All that is now in limbo as her suitability is called into question following a trial that has gone spectacularly wrong. Brought in to give her opinion as to whether or not the accused had committed the crime for which he was indicted, she (correctly as it turns out) states that she thinks he was not. However, despite her warning that while he may not have killed on this occasion he is likely to in future, the accused is set free and goes on to kill four times before he is brought up before the courts again. In as spectacular piece of unfairness as you could imagine, Charlie is publicly held to blame for this and while the General Medical Council considers her position she is banned from practising.
Going stir crazy, Charlie is almost relieved to receive a mysterious package in her morning post containing cuttings about the murder of a man on his wedding day and the subsequent trial and conviction of two of his business associates. The case is especially intriguing as it involves people she knew during her student days in Oxford and so, encouraged by her partner, Maria, she decides to follow up the case simply to give her something else to occupy her mind.
Gradually it becomes apparent that the package has been sent to her by the mother of the bride, her old Oxford tutor, Corinna, and when Charlie challenges her about this she confesses that she has indeed deliberately set out to involve Charlie because she is convinced that the wrong people have been convicted. Her daughter, Magda, far from being the traditional grieving widow, has taken up very rapidly with another ex-student, Jennifer (Jay) Stewart and is now living with her. Corinna, although uncomfortable with her daughter's apparently overnight conversion to lesbianism, is actually far more concerned because she claims she has reason to believe that Jay has committed murder in the past in order to get something she desperately desires and is certain that she has done so again in this instance. She challenges Charlie to find out the truth of the situation, throwing out the bait that by proving there has been a miscarriage of justice in this case, Charlie will be able to redeem herself in the eyes of the public, the police and her academic peers.
As much to get the persistent Corinna off her back, Charlie agrees to at least look at the evidence, the more so because it allows her to be in Oxford and near to the enigmatic Lisa Kirk, a woman she has recently met and who is exercising a hold over her that even she realises is too strong to be healthy. And from there everything else unfolds. But I am saying not a word more. You need to read this for yourself. But I strongly suggest you don't pick it up unless you have a couple of days when you don't have to meet any other commitments. While there were one or two plot points I was a bit sceptical about, the characters are fascinatingly drawn and I was throughly involved from the first page. This is vintage Mcdermid and I can't recommend it too strongly.