Book review: Out of Bounds by Val McDermid (Karen Pirie #4)

out-of-boundsCold-case investigator DCI Karen Pirie is back and is now working from an office in Edinburgh. Out of Bounds features two cases, one which is officially Karen’s and which is based in Glasgow area, and another which she can’t help getting involved in which has national and even international elements.

McDermid always writes great page-turners (I had some issues with the plot of the last Karen Pirie novel, The Skeleton Road, but still raced through it). This one brings all the elements together to make a great mystery that keeps you wondering to the end.

Another of her strengths is sense of place. I used to live in Edinburgh so it was great to revisit specific streets and buildings through Karen’s eyes. I particularly like that McDermid shows the workings of the Scottish legal system, resisting the pressure some authors have felt to Anglicise legal terminology, as Karen negotiates her way through cases.

The book also highlights wider political and cultural issues, whether it’s the recently formed Police Scotland, the power of the media, or the challenges faced by Syrian refugees.

The thing that makes it for me though is the characters. Karen is tough and clever and compassionate and sometimes a bit impulsive and daft. I like her evolving relationship with her hapless sidekick The Mint and her endless run-ins with her manager. But this is no clichéd maverick. Karen knows the system and her extensive network of contacts, many of whom recur in the series, are interesting characters in their own right.

I hope we hear more from them soon.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley.
View Out of Bounds on Goodreads

Enjoyed this? Take a look at more of my reviews of Scottish crime fiction.


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