Saturday 14 October 2023

Still Life by Val McDermid Book Review

 I do love a good crime thriller but I have a confession to make...

I've never read a novel by Val McDermid before. Well that has now been rectified thanks to my lovely Squad Pod. This month I had the pleasure of reading one of Val's latest stories Still Life.

Spoiler alert, I loved it. 

Read on to see just why.


When a lobster fisherman discovers a dead body in Scotland’s Firth of Forth, Karen is called into investigate. She quickly discovers that the case will require untangling a complicated web—including a historic disappearance, art forgery, and secret identities—that seems to orbit around a painting copyist who can mimic anyone from Holbein to Hockney. Meanwhile, a traffic crash leads to the discovery of a skeleton in a suburban garage. Needless to say, Karen has her plate full. Meanwhile, the man responsible for the death of the love of her life is being released from prison, reopening old wounds just as she was getting back on her feet.

What I immediately loved about this book was that although it was part of the famous Karen Pirie series, book six to be precise, you can easily read it as a stand alone novel.

Something else that felt quite refreshing was the fact that it didn't feel unnecessarily dramatic, no unrealistic plot twists, it all read as very plausible. 

The story follows two cases, both taking place in Feb 2020 just before the covid pandemic. One starts with a murder that leads to an historic case being re-opened and the other begins with a discovery of an extremely dead body found in a van in someone's garage.

Both cases however have something in common, Karen Pirie.

From Paris to Ireland, from art forgery to changed identities, each investigation comes with its own set of demands, but what is clear throughout is Karen's passion for the job. I loved the use of police chat, especially the nicknames for certain colleagues, gave the characters a sort of authenticity. 

DS Daisy Mortimer was a stand out character for me. Clever and determined, she complimented Pirie and I do hope to see this partnership feature more in future books.

As the story progresses and increasing amounts of evidence is found, it becomes apparent just how well researched everything within this book is, especially when it comes to how investigations proceed when in European hands.

You'd be forgiven for thinking that this book may well be a complicated read due to both its size and its contents but I'm pleased to say that this is not the case. 

Still Life is a straightforward and well presented police procedural story that remains satisfyingly mysterious throughout without having to be outlandish.

I'm sure you can guess from my review, I will definitely be reading more of McDermid's works. Look out for my review of her newest novel Past Lying next month.

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