Book Review

Out of Bounds by Val McDermid

out of bounds

Out of Bounds was, would you believe, my first Val McDermid novel, and I can honestly say that it won’t be my last as I really enjoyed it.  I won Out of Bounds (over a year ago!) in a giveaway on Susan’s blog Books From Dusk Till Dawn, and if you don’t already follow Susan’s blog then you really should. 😊

There are lots of things that ran in families, but murder wasn’t one of them…

When a teenage joyrider crashes a stolen car and ends up in a coma, a routine DNA test could be the key to unlocking the mystery of a twenty-year-old murder inquiry. Detective Chief Inspector Karen Pirie is an expert at solving the unsolvable. With each cold case closed, justice is served. So, finding the answer should be straightforward, but it’s as twisted as the DNA helix itself.

Meanwhile Karen finds herself irresistibly drawn to another case, one that she has no business investigating. And as she pieces together decades-old evidence, Karen discovers the most dangerous kinds of secrets. Secrets that someone is willing to kill for…

As I’ve said, this is my first Val McDermid novel, but the astute amongst you will realise that it is the fourth book in the Karen Pirie series.  Yes, I’m a naughty reader who hasn’t started at the beginning of the series!  This did not hinder my enjoyment in any way whatsoever – there are references to Karen’s past, but with sufficient detail that I didn’t feel in the dark at any point due to not having the full background, so I’m fully prepared to recommend this to readers who are also new to McDermid, or perhaps just new to this particular series.

DCI Karen Pirie heads up an historic cases unit, and I thought that the investigation into cold cases, whilst not unique, added something a little different to the police procedural genre.  Technology has been a massive boon in solving crimes, yet historic cases may require a little more traditional sleuthing as new forensic evidence in a twenty-year-old case may be harder to come by.  Of course, it’s a routine DNA check that prompts this particular case to be reopened, but from that point on, understanding what happened is left to Karen to discover via witness statements and going back to re-interview those witnesses from the time, piecing together what happened from the evidence collected during the original investigation, and trying to look at it in a new light.

Karen Pirie is a great character, a no-nonsense individual who does not suffer fools gladly.  Impatient but thorough, she has a healthy amount of disrespect for her superiors, but manages to get away with it due to her successes in solving historic cases which garner a lot of media and public support.  She’s incredibly stubborn, and once she has her teeth into something, she’s reluctant to let go, no matter how many times she might be told to back off.  For me, Karen’s character is one of the real joys of the novel – I loved reading about her efforts to solve these cases whilst coaching Jason, her protégé in investigating historic crimes who has a fair bit to learn, but whose heart in the right place.

I loved McDermid’s writing style, and I thought that the two cases featured here were fascinating – both had me hooked, and I couldn’t read this fast enough to find out ‘whodunnit’.  The cases are wonderfully complex, with everything wrapped up neatly by the end, and I can’t wait to read more of her work.

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐


  1. Great review! Out of Bounds was my first Val McDermid read, too. I definitely agree about the start of the series not being a necessity, which was a relief, and I loved the cold case unit aspect.

    1. Thank you, and glad to know it’s not just me that started at number 4! I thought the cold case element was great – just a little different to most police procedurals! 🙂

      1. Yeah, it’s unusual in police procedural and I think I might check out the rest of the series if they follow the same pattern. It made a nice change 🙂

  2. Don’t worry Jo, you’re not alone! I haven’t read any of McDermid’s work either! Fantastic review though, makes me want to pick some up. 😊

    1. Thought I was last to the party for a minute there! I’ll definitely be reading more of her work!

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