I am a big fan of Val McDermid's writing. Her 'Wire In The Blood' books (made into a TV crime drama series with Robson Green) are excellent, as are the stand alone novels she has written. Here, she takes her familiar genre of crime drama, and gives us a tense and fast paced tale of a Detective Inspector looking for the guilty person behind a series of deaths. However, when one of the deaths is the biggest gangsters around, the finger could be pointed anywhere.
With around 100 pages to work with, this was never going to get really deep and start delving into the extreme plot developments and character descriptions that you usually expect and get from McDermid, but even so, telling the story from a narrative point of view makes you feel a certain affinity to the main character, DCI Martin. Coupled with this is the gangster in question, who is only in the story a short while before his body is found washed up on the shore, only days after his daughter had died, in a house fire that seems deliberate rather than accidental.
McDermid's strength lies in creating twists in the plots, where there are clues throughout the book, but that you rarely fully guess. There are elements of her books that I usually come up with the answer to before they are revealed in the book, but never do I get the whole picture. The plots are so well worked out and convoluted, yet given to us in very easy to read and flowing formats. This is no different, although the restriction in length does mean that there is not the chance to get quite so deep and stretched out in terms of any plot twists, and this time, I was able to work out what was going on without any hitches.
Even so, you're not completely aware of things, and she does manage to throw in a couple of surprises, albeit minor ones, that aren't too telegraphed. The way the writing flows effortlessly when you read is a testament to a good writer. It doesn't seem like there is any discomfort or failure to maintain interest when reading, and this meant I easily read it in one go, and in less than an hour.
Cleanskin is a short story written as part of the Quick Reads series, a collection of books, new ones released every year, that are designed to encourage the reluctant reader into picking up a book. McDermid does simplify her writing style to make it somewhat different to the usual complicated plot, but manages to strike a good balance between remaining simple enough to encourage new readers as opposed to putting them off, and appealing to established readers. The book retails at £2.99, as do many of the Quick Reads books, and is well worth a read. Recommended.