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A Darker Domain    by Val McDermid order for
Darker Domain
by Val McDermid
Order:  USA  Can
Harper, 2009 (2009)
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Fife Constabulary DI Karen Pirie deals with an entanglement of cold cases in Val McDermid's A Darker Domain, a thriller from a master of misdirection, that keeps readers guessing from the first page to the last.

The catalyst for reopening the first one - the inexplicable 1984 disappearance of Scottish miner/artist Mick Prentice - is a child's imminent death from a rare disease. His mother, Misha Gibson reports her dad's disappearance decades after the fact, because her son needs his bone marrow and also she's only just become aware that his absence might not have been voluntary. Everyone believed he'd 'gone to Nottingham to join the blacklegs' (strikebreakers despised by their fellows) during the national miner's strike.

Though a missing person investigation is not the sort of cold case her despised by-the-book boss (whom they nickname The Macaroon) would support her taking on, there's 'a kid's life at stake'. Karen starts digging and her friend and colleague, DS Phil Parhatka, has her back. She finds out that Mick Prentice's best friend, sensitive Andy Kerr, disappeared at about the same time and is generally believed to have committed suicide.

The second case is opened due to the efforts of ambitious freelance journalist Bel Richmond. She stumbles upon new evidence relating to a murder/kidnapping while on holiday in Tuscany, and takes it to the father of the murder victim, Sir Broderick Maclennan Grant, 'chairman and principal shareholder of the country's twelfth most valuable company'. In 1985, wealthy heiress Catriona Maclennan Grant and her baby son were kidnapped in Fife. During the payoff, Catriona was shot. Her son was never found. Now Grant insists on DI Pirie heading the reopened case.

When Karen learns of a major fall in Wemyss Caves (where Mick Prentice regularly painted) in 1985, she finds the resources (under the radar through her forensic anthropologist friend, Dr. River Wilde) for an excavation. And the more she learns about the Catriona Grant case, the more there is that doesn't add up. Though it surprises Karen when the cases converge, readers have been expecting it, but the resolution - and the modern violence leading up to it - is in no way predictable. A Darker Domain is highly recommended.

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