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by Val McDermid
Atlantic Monthly Press, September 2013
416 pages
ISBN: 0802122043

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

After nearly two decades of following the lives and nuanced relationship between criminal profiler Dr Tony Hill and DCI Carol Jordan, each new appearance has come to be as welcome as a visit by an old and valued friend. But every life has its good times and bad times, and Hill and Jordan are definitely at a bad point. CROSS AND BURN begins with the horrific devastation left in the wake of the previous novel in the series, THE RETRIBUTION. Carol's brother and his lover had been savagely butchered in their own home, murdered by a psychopath named Jacko Vance whom she and Tony had failed to catch in time to prevent the killings. The crime had been compounded by the mutilation and blinding of one of Carol's own team in a trap meant for her. Unable - or unwilling - to cope with her trauma, Carol wrestles with guilt and remorse. She struggles to put the tragedies behind her by walking away from police work altogether, and focussing on totally renovating the converted barn where her brother and his partner died. It is a doomed attempt to eradicate all evidence of that horrific event: physically she has succeeded, but the memories will always remain.

Carol still holds Tony responsible for what had happened by not anticipating in time Vance's perverse plan to make her suffer, and for the past three months she has utterly severed herself from any contact with him. She is striving to define a new life, and for all their history that life does not yet and might never again include Tony Hill. But in trying to put her police work behind her, Carol's copper's instincts have been relegated to a back shelf somewhere in her mind, and she is unaware that someone is stalking her.

Meanwhile, the city of Bradfield is trying to cope with the appearance of a new sociopath on the scene. He's kidnapping, beating and murdering women and further mutilating their remains. When a local woman, mother to a teenage boy, disappears, DS Paula McIntyre and her partner, Dr Elinor Blessing, decide to take the boy under their wing while Paula fervently seeks to find the woman before something horrible happens. But another body is discovered, and when one of their own comes under suspicion, old enemies must work together to get to the bottom of things.

With its layered plot, compelling dialogue and McDermid's trademark characters, CROSS AND BURN is intense and utterly engrossing, and, for all its darkness, a joy to read. Told from multiple viewpoints that further heighten the suspense, the reader is torn between trying to finish the book in one go and carefully parcelling it out, savouring both the tale and the consummate skill with which it's told. Her strongest work to date - and that's saying a very great deal - CROSS AND BURN is a delicious gift to readers for the new year, from the pen of one of the most talented crime writers around.

Since 2005 Jim Napier's reviews and interviews have appeared in several Canadian newspapers and on various crime fiction and literary websites, including his own award-winning site, Deadly Diversions. He can be reached at jnapier@deadlydiversions.com

Reviewed by Jim Napier, January 2014

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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