Review: 1979 by Val McDermid
This is a weird book that I think only a big-name author like McDermid could get published these days. I picked it up because Scotland and also because of my ongoing project to read and watch more mysteries that don’t center police detectives.
(This is partly due to my political problems with police forces in general, but also the police detective has just been done to death, and I can’t stand the cliches of cop fiction anymore. Oh, he’s haunted by that one case? Oh, he drinks too much because he’s seen to much? Oh, he has a daughter and struggles to be a good dad despite the aformentioned drinking and caring too much about the job? Feh. Seen it. And then seen it again. And again.)
But back to 1979. It’s about a plucky young woman who gets stuck writing dumb “women’s page” stories and kind of lucks into becoming an investigative reporter. But here’s what’s weird about the book: the structure. The first two thirds of the book center on the nuts and bolts of putting two big investigative stories together. This is pretty compelling, but it’s neither mysterious nor particularly suspenseful. The last third concerns a murder that is ultimately solved offscreen by the police for which there are only really two suspects.
In short, this is a crime novel that features a lot of crime and almost no mystery or suspense. That’s why I think it’s weird. The protagonist is winning, but I’m not sure I’ll be on board for the next one. Then again, I’m not sure I won’t be. Like I said, It’s weird. I’m still making sense of it.