A riveting psychological thriller, now a major ITV drama, from the Number One bestselling Queen of crime fiction Val McDermid.
In the Peak District village of Scarsdale, thirteen-year-old girls didn’t just run away. So when Alison Carter vanished in the winter of ’63, everyone knew it was a murder.
Catherine Heathcote remembers the case well. A child herself when Alison vanished, decades on she still recalls the sense of fear as parents kept their children close, terrified of strangers.
Now a journalist, she persuades DI George Bennett to speak of the hunt for Alison, the tantalizing leads and harrowing dead ends. But when a fresh lead emerges, Bennett tries to stop the story – plunging Catherine into a world of buried secrets and revelations.
This superb novel should make Gold Dagger-nominee McDermid's reputation and bring her new readers in droves. It's December 1963 and teenage girls all over Britain are swooning to the Beatles' "I Want to Hold Your Hand." In the tiny, remote village of Scardale, Derbyshire, 13-year-old Alison Carter is envied by her peers because her stepfather buys her all the latest records. When Alison goes missing one dark night, Dist. Insp. George Bennett takes control of the case, despite being new to the job and the district. Other children have gone missing recently from towns and cities in the north, but somehow Alison's case is different. Although the police feverishly track down clues and organize searches over the moors, any hope that they'll find the girl fades as the days go by. Obsessed by the case, George is tormented by his lack of success and by the suffering of Alison's mother. Little more can be said without giving away key plot points, but McDermid spins a haunting tale whose complexity never masks her adroitness at creating memorable characters and scenes. Her narrative spell is such that the reader is immersed immediately in the rural Britain of the early '60s. She clearly did extensive research on how police work was done at the time, and it has paid off beautifully. The format of the novel is unusual, with much of it purporting to be a true crime book, but McDermid keeps the suspense taut, and her pacing never flags. This is an extraordinary achievement, and it's sure to be on many lists of the best mysteries of the year. 10-city author tour.
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A place of execution
Fantastic read 5 stars
Excellent, but ...
I’ve read this and listened to the audiobook version twice, so I think I am now able to put thoughts to paper (as we used to say). I still think this is excellent, the slowness of certain parts of the first book giving a useful corrective to the speed by which Conan Doyle had Sherlock Holmes solve so many crimes. I particularly enjoy the setting, as I’ve walked the area between Buxton and Matlock since I was a lad sixty years ago. I was just north of Longnor the weekend after the “Beast from the East” hit and saw how bleak this area can be. Coming back to the story it is fascinating to see McDermid’s skill as a magician misdirecting the reader again and again. My only qualm is the almost Agatha Christie rush to draw it all together at the end. After such a long drawn out narrative it all seemed to come together just that bit too rapidly, as if the writer had suddenly lost interest, a problem I’ve found with other novels where I turn the page expecting a further chapter where actions will bring things together only to find a Poirot-like exposition wrap things up at full pelt. But this is still a magnificent story, far more than a who-done-it/who-really-done-it.