Book Title: TRICK OF THE DARK
Author: Val McDermid
Publisher: Hachette Australia
No of Pages: 451
When Charlie Flint is sent a mysterious package of press cuttings about a brutal murder, it instantly grabs her attention. The murder occurred in the grounds of her old Oxford college - a groom battered to death just hours after his wedding. As his bride and wedding guests sipped champagne, his alleged killers were slipping his bloodstained body into the river.
Charlie doesn't know who sent the package, or why, but she can't get the crime out of her head. And with her professional life as a clinical psychiatrist in tatters, she has plenty of time on her hands to investigate.
I think it's only fair that I warn you to stand by for some slightly enthusiastic reviews. I've had one of those outstanding periods of reading where there have just been some fabulous books and TRICK OF THE DARK is one of them.
In this book of masterful storytelling by Val McDermid, TRICK OF THE DARK is a character study with the tension of a really good thriller. It also does something that I suspect some readers could find confronting, in that most of the characters in this book, including the lead Charlie Flint, are extremely flawed individuals. It's also probably fair to say that the character aspects dominate the narrative, and the book is much more of a whydunit as opposed to a whodunit. Having said that, there's plenty of room for a reader to doubt their belief that they know the whodunit aspects regularly. But in terms of character, the emphasis is most definitely on temptation, loyalty, love and respect.
The viewpoint moves around each of the main characters - Charlie, Magda and Jay.
Charlie, recently professionally disgraced, struggling with the possibility of losing the long-term career as a profiler that she loves, is feeling lost and vulnerable. She's also in a long-term same-sex marriage with a partner that she loves, but she cannot seem to control the attraction she feels for another woman. Conflicted, but seemingly unable to stop herself, her struggle seems so pointless and self-destructive.
Magda, recently newly-wed and widowed within the same day, has obviously been profoundly affected by the death of her husband, but equally by the chance meeting with Jay on her wedding day. She's hesitant, almost ineffectual, and she seems to be struggling to move on. It doesn't help that her new love is somebody that her mother has some profound doubts about.
Jay is a successful and wealthy businesswoman in her own right, but there have been tragedies in her past that Magda's mother, Corinna is particularly concerned about. Writing a book about her life, Jay's internal voice is often self-serving, giving the reader a skewed view of who this person is. Or maybe not.
Magda's mother Corinna is an Oxford Don, teacher, mentor and sometime employer of Charlie and Jay, who is very concerned about Jay and Magda's relationship. She also doesn't believe that her son-in-law's business partners murdered him, despite the verdict of the trial so recently completed.
The past connections give the story something of a closed room feeling, as everything revolves around events, and relationships from university days through to the present. The emotional states of each of the characters builds on that even further as they are often inward looking. Mind you, the present aspects of TRICK OF THE DARK aren't just introspective, overly dark or slow as a result. The story moves forward quickly, the character's personalities balanced against each other avoiding an overdose of self-pity or self-justification. Which really just leaves the reader looking to the future and wondering if this really is the last we'll see of Charlie Flint.