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Broken Ground: A Karen Pirie Novel


Broken Ground: A Karen Pirie Novel

Scottish author Val McDermid has collected numerous writing awards throughout her career, and once again delivers a novel that is tautly wound with just the right mix of mystery, suspense and danger to keep the pages turning long into the evening. BROKEN GROUND represents the fifth outing for Detective Chief Inspector Karen Pirie, who heads the small and often neglected Historic Cases Unit (HCU).

Karen’s small team is often at odds with their police chief, and many of their colleagues do not see the need for the HCU. However, Karen loves a puzzle and simply cannot let go of a cold case when it still demands to be solved. To that end, BROKEN GROUND opens with events that took place in 1944 at the Wester Ross part of Scotland. We are introduced to two nameless men who appear to have succeeded in uncovering a lost treasure that had eluded them and now are found digging a large hole in which to bury it.

"BROKEN GROUND is another terrific thriller from Val McDermid and a fine entry in her engrossing series."

We then move forward to modern-day Edinburgh, Scotland, where Karen is still stinging from the death of her lover and fellow police officer, Phil Parhatka, who was killed in the line of duty. Rather then dwelling in rightful mourning, she is throwing herself fully into her next case. Alice Somerville has traveled with her husband from the U.S. to Wester Ross, where they uncover something buried deep within the ground that was purported to be inheritance left for her from her grandfather, who went by the name “Granto.” Granto was allegedly a U.S. spy operating in Scotland during WWII.

Ground is broken in the area that her grandfather described, and what they find are two old motorcycles. Along with the bikes is the well-preserved body of a large man who had been shot between the eyes. The peat bog where the “inheritance” was buried did a remarkable job of preservation, and it should be just a matter of time before Karen and her team identify the corpse. The locals do not provide much help, except for the charming Hamish MacKenzie. It is obvious that Karen has taken a shine to Hamish, even though he is of little help in identifying the murdered man.

Of course, the identification does come through, and Karen learns that the victim was Joey Sutherland, a well-known competitive Scottish Strong Man. He had been buried somewhere around 1995, even though the motorcycles were clearly from 1944. It is now up to Karen and the HCU to somehow link the young man’s murder to the inheritance. The investigation carries on, and Karen becomes aware of what the alleged inheritance actually was --- a parcel of diamonds estimated to be a small fortune.

Karen now turns her sights to Shirley O'Shaughnessy, an American who has made quite a name for herself in the development of a Scottish government housing initiative. Due to her high-profile and gregarious nature, Karen’s commander has ordered her to dismiss any further pursuit of Shirley as a subject and issue an apology. Of course, Karen has no intention of doing anything of the sort. However, she has no idea of the real danger she is in from many different directions --- mostly the extremely protective and secretive residents of Wester Ross.

BROKEN GROUND is another terrific thriller from Val McDermid and a fine entry in her engrossing series. I particularly enjoyed the dedication of the novel to “a bookseller telling her a story...and to all the booksellers who love stories and thrust them into our hands and make addicts of us.” I am happy to say that I fully resemble that remark!

Reviewed by Ray Palen on December 14, 2018

Broken Ground: A Karen Pirie Novel
by Val McDermid

  • Publication Date: December 3, 2019
  • Genres: Fiction, Mystery, Suspense, Thriller
  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Grove Press
  • ISBN-10: 0802147747
  • ISBN-13: 9780802147745