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The Wire in the Blood - Val McDermid

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Author: Val McDermid / Genre: Crime / Thriller

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      11.09.2012 21:18
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      A gripping example of why Val McDermid work made it to the screen

      I used to be a complete, thorough bookworm. As a child, I would often go through a book a day, heaven knows how when I also spent so long in the garden pretending to be cantering around on my own horse!

      Recently the commute has been grinding me down to the extent whereby all I could do was get on a train, stick on my iPod and try to top up my sleep levels. But since the unutterably wonderful Mr Rarr took me away on holiday I feel thoroughly recharged and as such have found myself relishing the chance to get back on a train after a day's work and crack open a book. Recently, I dusted off a copy of Wire In The Blood by Val McDermid, a copy that I had forgotten I owned, so long it had been since I read it.

      ***THE AUTHOR***
      Scottish writer Val McDermid is of course responsible here for the characters that form the TV series based on her work and taking this novel's title. Hermione Norris and Robson Green, even though I was not a fan of the TV series not so much through lack of interest but lack of time to watch it, in my mind have now merged with my interpretation of the characters.

      Despite her main body of work being hard-hitting crime work, McDermid is also a children's author; first published outright in 1987 for her more regularly recognised work, McDermid published Wire In The Blood in 1997.

      For more on the author herself, visit www.valmcdermid.com

      ***THE PLOT***
      I haven't read the book that precedes this novel, in which Dr. Tony Hill and Carol Jordan, but the plot to that book is quickly revisited in this as we initially meet Dr Hill, a brilliant psychological profiler who had recently endured not only meeting a fascinating colleague and woman in her own right, Carol Jordan, but as a result of that scenario also having to fight for his life. The mental scars and ongoing confusion about his relationship with the high-flying police officer continue into this book.

      Hill is now charged with heading up a Nationally-scouted psychological profiling task force, a bid to utilise the growing undeniability of the use of such techniques in a world that still was adjusting to adapting it to "old style" copper work.

      Meanwhile Jordan has moved at the encouragement of her boss, John Brandon, following him to a new role of her own. Before long she has suspicions that a flurry of small fires in the new area she has found herself in could be more than just individual bunches of kids having a laugh at weekends, and is prying deeper, but before long Hill, who would have loved to have had her on the task force he is working on training, is in touch with her with a far darker enquiry.

      In training his team of promising young coppers, Hill set a theoretical practise exercise based on real cases cobbled together from the past dozen or so years from across the country's databases. All are missing persons. The challenge to his eager young team, all hailing from different backgrounds and with differing personalities, is to see if they could find any links, the premise - and this being his real theory - being that there could well be serial killers operating over long periods of time that simply never come under the radar due to the victims never being linked in an era, still ongoing now, in which people could disappear very easily.

      Shaz Bowman, by far the most committed and determined student of Hills', is the only one who comes up with a properly researched plot. Yet she takes it a step too far in her enthusiasm and thus endures the ridicule of her peers and the almost awkward praise of Hill and Jordan, who he had called in to help support the training of his new team, in regard to her methodology and approach.

      Not enough for the determined Shaz, she chases the lead she is sure she has not invented out of pure enthusiasm and eagerness to please alone. Before long it becomes apparent that her suspicions were not without merit, and a member of the fledgling team is put in terrible danger.

      The subsequent investigation that springs from this theoretical exercise throws up the possibility that there has, indeed, been a serial killer operational for some time, and many people have to try to pursue a possible candidate that the official investigating officers don't want to contemplate.

      ***THE BOOK***
      I've tried to say what I can here and above without putting in too much by way of spoilers.

      If you have seen the episode of the TV version of this writer's work that is based on this book you might want to be aware that there has been a big alteration between the interpretation of the basic storyline, but that's understandable when having to adapt plots written for long books when putting them in short TV show formats.

      Apart from that, I will try to avoid any spoilers from now and instead concentrate on my enjoyment of the book.

      First of all, Hill and Jordan are well-crafted characters. Hill's brilliance lies in his own failings and he has a familiarity with his ability being a result of characteristics that mirror, albeit channelled differently, those he pursues.

      Jordan is a high-achiever, a committed and diligent "copper", but in their first case together she admitted she had become attracted to Hill, who for reasons that are played out in this book to new readers, had to reject her. Their unprecedented, yet genuine and supportive, relationship - somewhere between friendship and something more - starts to develop further in this book, yet their working ability together is undeniably massively effective.

      The new students in Hill's team and those in Jordan's are very different, both between their own teams and in comparisons as whole groups, yet both suffer loss in this book and this is illustrated well.

      The other main characters are believable but clearly based on stereotypical media types, although I can't speak for McDermid's interpretations of the higher-ranking police officers from anything other than my own interpretation of such TV series and books of this genre - but nothing jarred.

      Admittedly the storyline is ambitious and highly intricate, and I found it hard to completely disregard my disbelief that all these individual instances would have fallen into place, all these strange people finding one another when they needed to, but the testament to McDermid's writing ability is that you cannot once think "this is ridiculous", put the book down and forget about it. Her strength is in her characters, and whilst the basic descriptions of the graphic nature of the crimes her protagonists commit are shocking initially, they are also vague - in this book we find out what has been done to a victim after it has been done, not the act itself, sparing the reader of the potentially horrifically graphic nature of description that would be required. That said, one murder is documented more thoroughly.

      ***SO, A READ-AGAIN?***
      I will probably read this again in a few years when I have again forgotten what happened! I do that quite a lot, but something that fails on a second or third reading soon finds itself going missing from my collection - and ones that don't do it first time around obviously don't get that far!

      I enjoyed this book. The development of the colleagues in the policing environment are what grasped me and this was more interesting than the insights into the killer themselves. The strength of characterisation is a winning trait in McDermid's writing and for that I have to recommend her - there is a reason that a top series was commissioned on this basis. Whilst I found some aspects of the plot fanciful - not because of the same reasons that the enthusiastic young copper Shaz based her theory on, but because of the unlikely scenario of all these strange personal foibles of the protagonists falling into place and being maintained for so long. On the other hand, McDermid had put together a watertight explanation of how this has been so, which is greatly to her credit.

      The main point is that I could not put this down. I read it in the morning on trains when I could have been asleep. I read it to distract myself from crying when Mr Rarr and I said goodbye at the train station platform when I knew it would be a fortnight before we would see each other again (pathetic, yes, but he's a very nice chap!), I read it to detract from nerves about a big day at work this week and I read it for short, grasped minutes at a time when I could get a seat two stops from my destination on the tube, and then I read a bit more when I got home and went to bed. It reignited my bookworm tendencies in a big way, and therefore I can't do anything other than recommend this book.

      I may not have started McDermid's series of these characters in the right place, indeed I'm not sure what that is, but I have read one later than this and I must also add that McDermid does reintroduce existing readers and gently introduce new ones to her main characters extremely well, setting the pace and scene for both the thriller aspect and the personal one of her work. A top-class crime writer and this is a great offering.

      ***THE DETAILS***
      Available for £5.59 new on Amazon in paperback. Also available in Kindle form.

      ISBN 978-0007344734

      Thanks for reading.

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        17.06.2007 04:32
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        The Book behind the TV shows

        This is the book which came before the TV series featuring Dr Tony Hill and Carol Jordan (although prior to this book was The Mermaids Singing), Dr Hill is a psycologist who after a traumatic experience has been asked to head up the new National Profiling Task Force. As someone who has never seen the TV series I came to this book with no preconceived ideas, but despite it being the second book featuring Tony and Carol I didnt feel that I needed to have read The Mermaids Singing so this works as a standalone book also.

        The candidates training to be part of the Task Force come from all over the country and tying them together as a team is clearly a difficult challenge as it teaching them the methods to go about psycological profiling in a very short space of time. As they have such a short time span to learn, Dr Hill sets the candidates a homework task to draw together a profile of a possible serial abductor from a set of random missing persons files, each file is a young woman but that is the only link.

        But one of the officers Shaz Bowman sees a frightening link between a few of the seemingly random files, their looks, and that a certain celebrity visited their home towns jsut days before they disappeared. After the brutal murder of Shaz the Task Force is suspended as each of them is considered to be a suspect. This one thing draws the Task Force in to a strong team unit and despite investigating unofficially they seem to be making some progress.

        Of course the reader knows who the suspect is and even that he is guilty. But because of the psycological theme you also get to explore the reasons that this man is doing the things that he does before the team do and as a result you are rooting for them to discover the evidence to link their suspiscions and profile to him in away which can be put to a court. Alongside this main theme is the other investigation that Carol Jordan is heading up, one she opened after her predecessor failed to notice the links between a series of arson attacks.

        Each of the storylines feels fully developed and is fairly easy to follow despite the narrative jumping between characters and areas across the UK, the chapters are fairly long and each one can jump around a number of times, so although if you prefer to read a quick chapter before bed you may find yourself reading more than you intended you will still be following each plot line equally well. Personally I found that even if I had only intended to read a few pages or a chapter I couldnt, I read it all in one sitting after work (I went to sleep as the birds started singing).

        It isnt a short book at 531 pages long, but is very well written with a compelling plot so it didnt feel that long to read. My copy came as part of a double pack with her latest book from Tesco at just £3.73 for both - an absolute bargain, but of course is avaliable from amazon for £3 or less.

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          27.08.2004 16:42
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          It was only by pure chance that I read this novel by Val McDermid. After finishing the book I'd taken on holiday I still wanted something to read by the pool and at the beach, and the Wire in the Blood had been left amongst other books in the apartment we were staying in by the owners. My main reason for deciding to read this particular book is that I'd read another of Val McDermid's books, Blue Genes, some time ago and remembered it being quite gripping... The Plot **************** The plot of this book is quite complex, in particular as you start reading - there seems to be so much going on in the first part of the book that you feel as though there are so many stories and characters that you'll never make sense of them all! They soon all link together though... Although the overview below is fairly detailed, it doesn't give enough away to spoil the book for you! Dr Tony Hill is a psychologist, and has recently been able to set up a National Offender Profiling team within the Police force - he's taken on four keen and eager existing members of the Police Force to train up to be excellent profilers, as he is himself. DI Carol Jordan has a past with Tony Hill - she'd worked with him on a previous case which almost lead to Hill's death. This case brought them close together, but also put a wedge in their relationship too. Carol Jordan has her own subordinates to look after, who she is leading in trying to identify whether numerous mysterious fires that have been set are just coinidences, or whether there is a firebug (serial arsonist) behind them. Near the start you are also introduced to celebrity Jacko Vance too - he's an ex pro-athlete, on the verge of appearing in the olympics as a javelin thrower. His olympic dreams were destroyed when he was involved in a car accident on a motorway - although not badly injured from the colision itself, Vance heaved two children free of a car
          that was about to burst into flames, then, attempted to also save a trapped truck driver - it was this valiant attempt that destroyed his career - the cab of the truck collapsed and crushed his right arm, requiring it to be amputated due to the crushed bone and mass tissue and muscle damage. Whilst recovering in hospital, Jacko splits with his fiance Jillie (you'll have to read who dumps who!) and finds a new wife in famous newsreader Micky. Micky and Jacko enjoy their celebrity status, showing how happy they are by publicising their relationship in the media as often as they can it seems. They live in a beatiful house along with Micky's PA, Betsy, who is at their whim and call to make their lives as easy as they can be... So how do these three main situations in the book link together? Hill's new profilers are set a classroom task in which they are given details of missing teenagers - these are all real cases that they are given to look at, and their task is to see if they can identify any links or patterns in any of the cases. Are these just teenage runaways, or are some of them more sinister than that? All the students have to present their findings to the rest of the group, which is when Shaz Bowman (one of the student profilers) presents her findings - she's put an awful lot of work into her class task, but finds some people laughing at her face at her seemingly wild conclusions... Determined to prove them wrong she sets off on herself to try and get more evidence to prove her theory - unfortunately for Shaz this leads to her very gruesome death. The rest of the group are then determined to discover her real killer, though the local Police force seem convinced that it was one of the group that put an end to her life... The story takes a few twists and turns along the way - revelations of a lesbian relationship, two deaths caused by the arsonist, possible corruption in another section of the emergency services, another t
          eenager going missing whose circumstances match those identified in Shaz Bowman's classroom assignment, and a killer determined not to be found out... Readability **************** At the start I found this book a little complicated - there seemed to be so many characters and so many bits of story being revealed that were seemingly unrelated. It wasn't long, however before I started to be able to link these bits of stories in my mind - as characters developed and their backgrounds and circumstances were revealed the story became more and more intriguing. It soon became a book I didn't want to put down. The book itself is the second by Val McDermid centering around the character Dr Tony Hill. The first, The Mermaids Singing, is a book I haven't read, and found I didn't need to have read to enjoy this book, however I presume that insights into Tony Hill and Carol Jordan's relationship are revealed more in the first book. I'd be interested to read the first book, and the others that come after The Wire in the Blood at some point, but certainly don't feel that I've missed out by reading in the 'wrong' order. Additional Information **************** An adaptation of the Tony Hill and Carol Jordan stories has been shown on TV under the name The Wire in the Blood. Starring Robson Green and Hermione Norris as the two main characters, the second series was aired in the UK in February 2004, and the next series starts being filmed in September 2004. I've never seen the TV series so cannot compare it to the book, but from information I've read the TV series revolves more around the characters than trying to follow the books written by Val McDermid. The second series was shown in Australia and America, proving it's success, and it's apparantly available on DVD. Incidentally, I had no idea how the title linked to the story, though after a little research I've
          found the following: "The phrase "the wire in the blood" comes from T.S. Eliots "Four Quartets". - "The trilling wire in the blood/sings below inveterate scars/appeasing long-forgotten wars." As for the meaning.. In an interview Robson Green said the phrase "wire in the blood" was taken to mean a genetic kink, something impure and unusual in the blood, that leads to the kind of psychosis Hill might deal with. Val McDermid says: 'Who knows what Eliot really meant by that line? Robson's explanation is as good as any... For myself, I've always taken it to be a metaphor for the thrill of adrenaline surging through the bloodstream. But we'll never know for sure"." (information taken from http://www.valmcdermid.com/pages/tvseries.html) The Verdict **************** I'm pleased I came across this book the way I did - I doubt I'd have gone out and bought it as although I'd enjoyed other books by the author I rarely go out and purchase books - I'll be looking out for other books in the series on eBay though now! I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who likes crime thriller style novels, and who is prepared to read a book that may take a bit of getting into at the start. It's not a short book - Amazon confirm it as having 512 pages, and sell it for £5.59, though you'll probably pick up a cheaper copy from eBay. Highly recommended with five stars * * * * *

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            12.06.2000 22:51

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            The second novel to feature criminal profiler Tony Hills and his team, this is a dark story concerning the disappearance of several young girls. Their murderer/torturer is clear fairly early, the question is can evidence be found sufficient to convict? A gripping tale with well-rounded characters, although it does help to have read the previous novel (The Mermaids Singing) as some references are made to it. Recommended to all who like their thrillers gritty, realistic and just a bit nasty....

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