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Beneath the Bleeding    by Val McDermid order for
Beneath the Bleeding
by Val McDermid
Order:  USA  Can
HarperCollins, 2008 (2008)
Hardcover, Softcover
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Though I still miss Val McDermid's Kate Brannigan books, her series starring profiler Dr. Tony Hill and Detective Chief Inspector Carol Jordan has been on my must read list since its inception - and has also led to the popular ITV series, The Wire in the Blood. Though Hill and Jordan have always been attracted to each other, they've had a very rocky relationship. As Carol replies to her brother's urging that she and Tony take it a step further: 'History like ours, you need crampons and oxygen to get over it.'

McDermid is always pretty hard on her protagonist duo and she starts early in Beneath the Bleeding by having a psychiatric patient attack Tony Hill (during a full moon) at the beginning - which leaves him to consult from a hospital bed in this episode. Carol Jordan runs the Major Incident Team at Bradfield. Her investigations begin with the sudden mysterious illness - and then death - of local soccer star midfielder Robbie Bishop. Was a stalker responsible? That killing is followed by a bomb blast at the stadium, which quickly brings in the heavies of the Counter Terrorism Command - especially after a link is found between the bombing and a Muslim. Are the soccer star's death and the blast related?

As Carol fumes over the men in black - whom she views as 'Bully boys and borderline sociopaths masquerading as our saviours' - taking over a major case, the stadium bombing, in her territory, she also clashes with Tony, resenting his interference with her officers, even after his hunches are proved right. Carol's team uncovers deaths related to the first killing and a link between victims, who all attended Harriestown High School - as did one of Carol's own officers. All loose threads are eventually tied in these investigations, and though I found the solution a little abrupt, perhaps that's often what it's like in real life policing.

Along with the mystery, readers and Carol meet Tony's controlling mother Vanessa and get glimpses of his troubled childhood and the influences that led to his having such strong empathy with sociopaths. And there's also a fascinating discussion of the psychology of sanction and how TV shows, by forcing viewers to suspend disbelief, gradually condition them to sanction acts they wouldn't have before. As Carol puts it, 'You're saying that what they see on TV makes the punters accept more extreme behaviour from law enforcement?' (This notion scares me most just after watching 24!) Don't miss Beneath the Bleeding - or any of McDermid's other Hill/Jordan chillers, for that matter.

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