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Issue: Spring 2014

The Skeleton Road (Sep 2014) book review

In Memory Yet Blood Red

The Balkans conflict is now the stuff of academic discussion and history books. Maggie Blake, Oxford Professor of Geography knows it better than most because she was there.

Having survived the siege of Dubrovnik, she returned to England to raise awareness and money, and to a stellar career moving between the war-torn country and England as she researched and wrote. She also brought home the handsome General Petrovic with whom she lived until she came home one day to find him gone.

Blake crosses paths with DCI Karen Petrie of the Scottish Historic Crimes Unit (Cold Cases) when a skeleton is discovered on an Edinburgh rooftop.

book cover, Skeleton Road, by Val McDermid; 220x336

The Skeleton Road by Val McDermid (Sep 2014), hc, 384p, Little Brown Book Group, GBP 18.99

Meanwhile Petrovic is being sought by two staff members of a war crimes tribunal, suspected of going rogue and killing war criminals who might get off too lightly in The Hague.

Multiple streams of investigation can be confusing, but McDermid handles the changing points of view with ease.

Val McDermid brings to her crime fiction a journalistic background, and, contacts. Her work is well-researched, and well-presented. McDermid has a fine touch; she can portray controversial ideas and happenings in a way that gives immediacy without preachiness, and so writes of outrageous acts without over-loud outrage in her language.

The Skeleton Road works on two levels. It works as a crime story -- who is the dead body, who killed him? Who is killing the Serbian war criminals? And it works as a snapshot into history. It gives us an insight into the kind of barbarism that is too awful to even be called war. Murderous hatred, horrific tortures and killings, cruelty and revenge, it is difficult to imagine without living through such things, but McDermid weaves the horror into her modern crime novel.

Altogether another masterwork from a master storyteller.

Highly Recommended.

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Ali Kayn
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