The Mermaid’s Singing by Val McDermid

After reading Val McDermid’s most recent Tony Hill book, I decided to go back and read the series from the beginning. What an incredible start the series made with ‘The Mermaid’s Singing’. Next book I’ll read is ‘Wire in the Blood’.

Tony Hill has managed to get the police to trial profiling and his first case is a truly gory one. His liaison within the police is Inspector Carol Jordan.

A number of bodies have been found dumped in an area of Bradfield frequented by gays. The bodies are of men not known to be gay, they have been severely tortured before death and further mutilated after death.

Most of the police go through the usual (in British detective novels) range of narrow-minded reactions to solving the crime:

  1. Refuse to accept that the murders are the work of a serial killer until there is no other option
  2. The poofs got what they deserved anyway
  3. What’s the use of this academic profiling rubbish, we’re better off with ‘real’ police work.

The fourth victim makes the police finally take notice and the accuracy of Tony’s predictions give credibility to his profile of the killer.

Eventually it is Tony’s profile that is used by Carol Jordan and others to track the killer.


The way that the book was set up was fascinating with alternating chapters between the killer’s diary and the story of tracking him.

There is also some excellent character setup of both Tony and Carol, with their ambitions, hang-ups and baggage, and their developing relationship.

The identity of the killer came as a complete surprise – Tony didn’t quite get it right.

Val McDermid is an excellent author as long as you don’t mind wading through a bit of gore.

The next book in the series is ‘The Wire in the Blood‘.


Book Published 1995



See a full list of books by Val McDermid

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Filed under Book Reviews, Crime, Detective, McDermid, Val, Series Fiction, Thriller

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