Book review: Splinter the Silence combines cyber crime, sobriety and friendship

Val McDermid continues the story of ex-chief constable Carol Jordan and clinical psychologist Tony Hill

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 20 January, 2016, 1:27pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 20 January, 2016, 2:11pm

Splinter the Silence

by Val McDermid

Atlantic Monthly

4 stars

Oline H. Cogdill

British author Val McDermid’s thrilling novels about detective chief constable Carol Jordan and clinical psychologist Tony Hill continue to richly delve into the vagaries of modern crime and the psychological motives that propel people to do the unthinkable.

McDermid continues her high standards in her compelling ninth outing with Carol and Tony, whose personal and professional relationship take myriad detours. While Splinter the Silence excels as a gripping crime fiction, the novel also works as a tale about the power of friendship, the struggle to stay sober and the importance of allowing people into your life.

Splinter the Silence finds Carol at loose ends. No longer with the police, Carol spends her days restoring a barn and drinking while Tony continues his clinical psychological work in Bradfield, England. The two are bound by a “complicated matrix of feelings”, though these platonic friends are no longer speaking. But when Carol is arrested on a drink-driving charge, Tony is the only one who she can call and, much to her dismay, moves into her house to act as her personal sobriety coach.

Despite her troubles, Carol’s brilliance as a detective has not been ignored and she is drafted to lead a new major incident team.

One of the team’s cases involves the supposed suicides of several feminists who have been outspoken about the issues of women and children exploited by sex traffickers. The common link is that each woman had been the recent victim of a cyber bully. As Tony sees unusual twists in the deaths, Carol deals with the challenges of leading an elite police squad.

McDermid expertly moves the plot through surprising turns with acute details of police procedure as well as rich character studies. Neither Carol nor Tony is a likeable person, but McDermid exposes their humanity while making readers care very much about what happens to them. Their reunion is uncomfortable at first as McDermid gracefully shows how these two must again learn to rely on each other.

Throughout her 30-novel career, McDermid continues to astound with her creative exploration of the human experience.

Tribune News Service