by Val McDermid
Published in 2018, Broken Ground is a police procedural set in Edinburgh and the Highlands of Scotland. Thus I couldn’t resist delving into it.
‘ “I need you over here. This body that’s supposed to have been in the ground for seventy-four years? He’s wearing a pair of Nikes. By my reckoning that makes him one of yours.” ‘
Detective Chief Inspector Karen Pirie is in charge of the historic cases unit at Police Scotland. She is in the middle of an investigation of an old rape case when she is called to the Highlands to take a look at a body buried in a peat bog. The corpse is perfectly preserved and accompanied by one of two 1944 Indian 741 motorbikes.
The bikes are the alleged inheritance of two Londoners who have engaged crofter Hamish Mackenzie to dig them up. The dead body is a surprise. So is Hamish; he just happens to own a chain of Edinburgh coffee shops!
‘Karen understood what was really going on. That made her even more determined to get all three cases moving in the right direction. There was no way that she was going to concede any ground to Ann Markie now, no matter how hard her boss tried to make it for her.’
Leaving Sergeant Gerry McCartney [- a plant by ACC Ann Markie to catch Karen in a misdeamour that can have her fired -] to follow up some leads on the rapes, Karen heads for Wester Ross. What she must solve is the twenty-year-old murder of a top athlete and its connection with the two, almost brand-new motorbikes once the property of the US military during WWII.
If two cases weren’t enough, Karen becomes involved in a third, a present-day domestic abuse and killing being handled by a colleague, DCI Jimmy Hutton. Juggling all this work is tough but she has also to juggle her relationships – her growing fondness for Hamish, potentially a suspect in the bog murder, her friendship with Hutton, and with the malice of ACC Markie. The reader expects all the mysteries to be solved – and the relationships resolved – by the end and indeed they are, although perhaps not in the obvious way.
Broken Ground is a clever detective story, perhaps not as gritty nor psychologically twisted as some of McDermid’s other work, but nevertheless an easy and satisfying read for any fans of McDermid and the police procedural.