Trick Of The Dark
- Little, Brown Book Group
- Publication Date:
- 17 February 2011
- Crime, Thrillers and Mystery
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I think it's only fair that I warn you to stand by for some slightly enthusiastic reviews. I've had one of those outstanding periods of reading where there have just been some fabulous books and TRICK OF THE DARK is one of them.In this book of masterful storytelling by Val McDermid, TRICK OF THE DARK is a character study with the tension of a really good thriller. It also does something that I suspect some readers could find confronting, in that most of the characters in this book, including the lead Charlie Flint, are extremely flawed individuals. It's also probably fair to say that the character aspects dominate the narrative, and the book is much more of a whydunit as opposed to a whodunit. Having said that, there's plenty of room for a reader to doubt their belief that they know the whodunit aspects regularly. But in terms of character, the emphasis is most definitely on temptation, loyalty, love and respect. The viewpoint moves around each of the main characters - Charlie, Magda and Jay. Charlie, recently professionally disgraced, struggling with the possibility of losing the long-term career as a profiler that she loves, is feeling lost and vulnerable. She's also in a long-term same-sex marriage with a partner that she loves, but she cannot seem to control the attraction she feels for another woman. Conflicted, but seemingly unable to stop herself, her struggle seems so pointless and self-destructive.Magda, recently newly-wed and widowed within the same day, has obviously been profoundly affected by the death of her husband, but equally by the chance meeting with Jay on her wedding day. She's hesitant, almost ineffectual, and she seems to be struggling to move on. It doesn't help that her new love is somebody that her mother has some profound doubts about. Jay is a successful and wealthy businesswoman in her own right, but there have been tragedies in her past that Magda's mother, Corinna is particularly concerned about. Writing a book about her life, Jay's internal voice is often self-serving, giving the reader a skewed view of who this person is. Or maybe not.Magda's mother Corinna is an Oxford Don, teacher, mentor and sometime employer of Charlie and Jay, who is very concerned about Jay and Magda's relationship. She also doesn't believe that her son-in-law's business partners murdered him, despite the verdict of the trial so recently completed.The past connections give the story something of a closed room feeling, as everything revolves around events, and relationships from university days through to the present. The emotional states of each of the characters builds on that even further as they are often inward looking. Mind you, the present aspects of TRICK OF THE DARK aren't just introspective, overly dark or slow as a result. The story moves forward quickly, the character's personalities balanced against each other avoiding an overdose of self-pity or self-justification. Which really just leaves the reader looking to the future and wondering if this really is the last we'll see of Charlie Flint.
Although not a lesbian myself, some of my best friends are. And this is what distinguishes us from most of the gay characters in Val McDermid's new book, Trick of the Dark, who appear to inhabit an inverted universe where same sex love is the norm, and hetero and homosexual seldom meet at more than a superficial level. Having said that, I admit I thoroughly enjoyed the book, sympathised with the lead character psychiatrist Charlie Flint who despite a wonderful relationship with her dentist wife Maria has fallen head over heels in lust with a younger and sexually ambiguous Oxford academic. Charlie is approached by her former Oxford tutor and role model Corinna who is concerned over her daughter Magda: Magda's dream wedding in the grounds of her mother's college had something of a pall cast over it when her husband was bludgeoned to death on the banks of the river. When her late husband's business partners are charged with his murder, Magda is supported throughout the trial by celebrity lesbian, millionaire business woman and famous misery memoirist Jay Stewart, another of Corinna's former students. Jay, an 'alpha lesbian', has had a hard but extremely lucky life in that people who stood in her way ended up dead. Corinna is convinced the wrong people have been found guilty and Jay is responsible for the murder of her son-in-law: Magda has discovered she is gay and moved in with Jay, at which stage Corinna approaches Charlie for help. Despite their history - Charlie feels Corinna [a Catholic] turned against her when she discoeverd she was a lesbian - she has been suspended from her job and with time on her hands and Maria's encouragement, she agrees to help. Excellent investigative detection is levened by the youthful and paranoid pangs of desire everyone has felt as Charlie combines her search into the truth behind Jay with a gentle pursuit of the young and ruthlessly manipulatrive don who has her gonads in thrall. In additon she has to cope with her guilt and concern over upsetting loyal Maria, whom she really does love.Interesting - enthralling even - Val has never disappointed and her lesbian characters are always engaging, although somewhat socially insular [they should try broadening their social circles because they'll discover straights are people too]. The woman's college in the book was based on Val's alma mater St Hilda and one suspects the places and institutions described here are some the author knows well.
A very enjoyable novel based around a pyschologist's quest to discover whether a famous lesbian businesswoman with a shady past is actually a serial killer, with a lengthy string of victims to her name already.As always with McDermid the plot is tightly drawn and the characters enturely plausible. Maybe not up to the standard of her best novels but definitely worth reading.
All the main characters (five in all!) are lesbians. And that doesn't seem at all gratuitous in the reading. Characters are well-drawn in McDermid's dark way. Everyone seems a bit *too* selfish, opportunistic and manipulative, even considering a couple of them are psychologists, but things aren't enough out of kilter for me . But the ending *is* gratuitous, and a real letdown.
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