Cross and Burn by Val McDermid

Detective Chief Inspector Carol Jordan’s Major Incident Team is in tatters: the people she counted as her closest associates – both professionally and publicly – are in new jobs, or unemployed, or in rehab. Targeted by a psycho who killed her brother and his partner in a savage display of bloodshed, she has no one: not her parents who blame her for their son’s death, nor profiler Dr Tony Hill, whose lack of insight Jordan blames for the murder. Holed up in her brother’s barn, she wants to stay out of everything, including life. But Detective Sergeant Paula McIntyre is still in the business, and when she is put on the case of a missing woman who looks a lot like a body that has just been dumped, the investigation by her new DCI who has replaced Jordan goes seriously awry.

Torn between loyalty to her new team and needing the help of her old team, McIntyre walks a fine line that threatens to endanger the case and her own place in it. But justice, as Jordan taught her, is the most important thing of all.

Val McDermid has created a full roster of characters that are exactly the kind of police team you’d want on your side: determined, trustworthy, close and all utterly clever. The pain suffered by Jordan and Hill – both plagued by guilt – is brutal, and you feel for them: any headway they make seems earned, not tacked on. Cross and Burn is a police procedural made honest by things like budget cutbacks, infighting, and real people with differing attitudes (and enthusiasm) for police work.

Cross and Burn sees yet more women locked in boxes (sigh), so this excellently satisfying English crime thriller is perhaps best read surrounded by a crowd.

Fiona Hardy