Out of Bounds: A Karen Pirie Novel
DCI Karen Pirie always has one foot in the past --- literally. She is a lead detective for the Historic Cases Unit in Scotland, which is a fancy way of saying “cold case.” She and her partner, Jason, spend their days trying to solve cases long left alone. This is not an easy job but one that could be quite rewarding when they are successful in their task.
OUT OF BOUNDS begins with a night on the town and four young mates who are drinking heavily and bar/club hopping. Their night, unfortunately, does not end at a bar but with the lads stealing a car and joyriding around the countryside. Regrettably, they get into a serious accident where all but one of them is killed. The survivor, Ross Garvie, is in a coma, and further investigation into the tragedy lies within his unreachable mind.
Normally, this would not be a case that Karen would get involved in. However, when tests are run in the hospital on Ross, it reveals that he was fathered by another man and is not actually a Garvie. Even more interesting, and the reason why Karen is called in, is the fact that his DNA ties him to both an unsolved murder from decades earlier and a small plane bombing in 1994 that allegedly had been attributed to the IRA.
"Val McDermid is always great to curl up to, and I am confident many readers will do just that as they enjoy her latest thriller while winter storms blow just outside their windows."
Thus our story officially begins. When the Garvies admit that Mr. Garvie is not Ross' father, the mystery is unveiled. The actual father may have been responsible for a long unsolved murder of a young woman named Tina McDonald. Karen has to jump through quite a few hoops to convince her boss that this case is worth pursuing and wonders why he and his superiors do not seem to want it solved. The DNA points to the Abbott family, specifically Gabriel Abbott, and the fact that a small plane traced to one Caroline Abbott was victimized by a terrorist bomb that took it down and killed all four passengers on it.
Investigating historical crimes is not all that motivates Karen, who is still deeply grieving the death of her last partner and lover. To keep her mind off of that tragedy, she spends some of her free time meeting up with a small group of Syrian refugees that she befriended. This is not done out of guilt but from a clear need to help these men and women connect with their families who were left behind. It is here where author Val McDermid firmly has her finger on the pulse of a real present-day issue, and the barometer of feelings for and against these refugees finding a new home in Scotland is just as tumultuous as it is in real life.
Another thing McDermid always does well is place readers directly into the local atmosphere where her stories are set. At one point Karen meets up with a colleague, Sunny O'Brien, and you can just feel the Irish brogue dripping off the pages when Sunny speaks. This appearance also provides an opportunity for some references to crime-based TV shows like the classic “Homicide: Life on the Street.” Sunny offers some info on the IRA and their alleged involvement in the 1994 plane bombing that is related to Karen’s case. As expected in McDermid's novels, things are not always as they appear to be on the surface.
Things begin to come together in the case, and this is through some hard investigation into the past and nights trying to relax Karen’s mind by reading Lee Child novels. Ross awakens eventually, but this does not lend much to the case as he is crippled, half-blind and half-deaf. At one point, as Karen gets too close to the truth, she is attacked by a potential suspect in the cold-case murder only to be saved by some of her Syrian pals.
OUT OF BOUNDS snakes and slithers just like Ross Garvie's wildly out-of-control vehicle at the novel's opening. Karen Pirie is a terrific and complex character with a real sense of justice and fair play that keeps her grounded throughout, even when her life is in danger. Val McDermid is always great to curl up to, and I am confident many readers will do just that as they enjoy her latest thriller while winter storms blow just outside their windows.
Reviewed by Ray Palen on January 20, 2017