Book Review: Skeleton Road by Val McDermid

Skeleton Road

Genre: Crime Fiction

Scottish crime writer, Val McDermid, is the author of over thirty novels. Her book  are always bestsellers and deservedly so.

Skeleton Road was published in 2015 and I enjoyed it as much, if not more, than this author’s previous books. It’s a good one to start with if you’ve never read anything else by McDermid as it’s a standalone. Equally, fans of the series novels should not be concerned that there’s no Tony Hill and Carol Jordan, no Kate Brannigan and no Lindsay Gordon. The crime fighters in this book are every bit as interesting and entertaining as in any of the previous tales.

The story begins when an eight year old murder is revealed by the discovery of a skeleton in the roof space of an old building. It’s then down to DCI Karen Pirie of the Historic Cases Unit to track down the murderer. Forensics reveals a connection between the skeleton and the Balkans war in the former Yugoslavia at the end of the 1990s. And so a multi-stranded story is set up.

There’s the identity of both victim and murderer to be discovered, and there’s the question of how the body came to be at the top of a tall, derelict building in Edinburgh.

There’s the possible link to the complex and troubled, Oxford University Professor, Maggie Blake. The professor is writing her memoirs about her time in Yugoslavia during the 1990s conflict and extracts from this work are interspersed throughout the main narrative to good effect.

And then there’s the concurrent investigation into possible war crimes being run by the International Criminal Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia (ICTFY). An investigation that becomes increasingly and at times, menacingly, bound up with the murder investigation.

McDermid weaves all the story strands into an intriguing whole.

The characterisation is very well done. There’s the, sometimes, comic, DC Jason ‘the Mint’ Murray, who works with, and winds up DCI Pirie. There’s the wonderfully named forensics specialist, Dr River Wilde, who’s as interesting as her name. And there’s the dysfunctional pairing of the ICTFY investigators, Macanespie and Proctor.

There’s political commentary, the fascinating personal lives of the characters and the gruesomeness of murder and war all interwoven with the nuts and bolts of crime investigation.

There are surprises, suspense and a shocking but satisfying ending.

All in all great storytelling.

Type of Read: Good one for the commute, or equally on the sofa with a dram of an evening.

 Skeleton Road is published by Little, Brown ISBN: 978-1408704578 .

It’s available as a paperback, audio-book, and as an e-book. It can be bought in bookstores and online. More information at the author’s website: