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What happened to Alison carter?............... .
A Place of Execution - Val McDermid
Member Name: pmcds
A Place of Execution - Val McDermid
Advantages: Stunning, will engross you
Disadvantages: Haunting, can take this as a negative if you're of a nervous disposition
One thing I really like is a good novel. I like it even better when the novel is adapted successfully for TV, and over the last few weeks, Val McDermid has once again has the adaptation treatment. The Wire In The Blood author is probably better known for her character Dr Tony Hill due to the WITB series on TV, and although only a couple of the episodes have any bearing on the novels, it was after watching the first WITB that I started reading McDermid's books.
Of her fictional publications, I much prefer the 'stand alone' individual novels she writes. The WITB series is accompanied by a couple of other characters she has, including private investigator Kate Brannigan, but her individual novels are much mroe powerful as they require the character development to reach its peak by the end - there is no subsequent novel to further develop them. McDermid has taken a little trend of flicking between the past and the present in some of her books, a style she put to extremely good use with The Distant Echo in 2003, which is my favourite of her books.
However, out of her 24 books, none has a more engrossing plot than this one, A Place of Execution. It deals with a rather disturbing subject matter, and constant flicking between the past and the present. In the 1960s, with stories of the Moors Murderers ever present in the press, thirteen year old Alison Carter goes missing from her Derbyshire village. Detective Inspector George Bennett is called in to investigate the disappearance, and becomes obsessed with the case. Bit by bit, evidence becomes available to help them towards a conclusion, and it is not long before they suspect she has been murdered somewhere on the moors.
Fast forward to the present: investigative journalist Catherine Heathcote is filming DI George Bennett, now firmly retired. She is reexamining the case for the purposes of showing the public exactly what happened, as she spent childhood summers in thde manor house where Alison and her family lived. Suddenly, without reason, Bennett pulls out of the production, just days before its deadline, and no matter how much Catherine tries, she cannot get him to talk to her. As she starts digging, with pressure from her employer to get the story out, a different story emerges, and it appears that the truth about what happened all those years ago never really surfaced.....until now!
The strong point about the novel and perhaps the key to the story is the amazing characterisation from McDermid. You really get a feel for the main central characters, particularly George Bennett, in both the past and the present. Bennett' right hand man on the force, Sergeant Tommy Clough, is shown as a tough, local policeman, having learnt the hard way, and this is in good contrast to Bennett's University police schooling. Coupled with the camaradery shown by McDermid among the villagers, and the modern portrayal of some of these characters, I was completely immersed in the story right from the start.
There are some very haunting descriptive passages in the novel, and I found myself having to put the book down from time to time, so involved was I getting. It's not that it was an effort to read, but there was a lot of information involved, and you feel pretty much straight away that all is not as it seems, and that the real truth has somehow been hidden.
The change between the past and the present comes quite suddenly each time it happens, and this is a testament to the supreme skill of McDermid. She sucked me in and made me so engrossed in the old story of the case and the description og Bennett's search, that when the switch came to the present with Catherine seeking the truth behind George's refusal to cooperate, I was disappointed. However, two pages in, once more I was engrossed, and the same feeling came back with a sudden shift back to the 1960s.
Although I am not an expert, I felt the difference between the two times was captured marvellously by McDermid. She provides good distinction between police methods and the way of life in each time zone, and never once does it feel like you're being pushed from pillar to post, back and forth too much between the 1960s and the present. The balance is just right.
McDermid's writing style is quite descriptive, and as such this book is not for the faint hearted. There is a brilliant twist at the end of the book, and I am very keen to not give anything away at all within the book, as there are clues everywhere as to what really happened all those years ago back in the 1960s, on the eve of Alison's disappearance.
I highly recommend this book. I couldn't put it down, but found that at times I just had to, for my own sanity! McDermid really sucks you in, and at the end of the book I had to take a deep, appreciative breath. She really knows how to write a good thriller, and the characterisation is such that it will stay with you for a while, until you pick up the next of her books and start all over again.
A Place of Execution retails for £6.99 but is available from most6 retailers for a cheaper price, and features on amazon.co.uk for £3.84.
Summary: A stunninh thriller from a true great of the genre