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Book Review

‘Broken Ground’ gives new insight to Scotland’s role in war

Oline H. Cogdill

The past is always in the present for Edinburgh Detective Chief Inspector Karen Pirie, making her fifth appearance in Val McDermid’s expertly plotted “Broken Ground.” As head of the Historic Cases Unit — that would be cold cases in the United States — Karen is used to investigations that aren’t just old but also give a glimpse of life in the past.

As a result, the Karen Pirie novels turn the spotlight on bits of forgotten history. “Broken Ground” has its roots in World War II in the Scottish Highlands. In 1944, soldiers pulling out of their encampment were told to either burn or bury their equipment as it would be too costly to salvage anything. But two soldiers couldn’t bear to destroy the pair of valuable American motorcycles that had just arrived, so they buried them in protective boxes in the peat bog, planning to return one day for their treasure. They never got the chance, but now one soldier’s granddaughter, Alice Somerville, and her husband, Will, have come to claim their inheritance.

The peat bog protects anything buried in it, including the perfectly preserved body of a murdered professional athlete whose body is found along with the motorcycles. But this was a more modern crime as it is quickly determined that the man disappeared in 1995, based on his expensive limited-edition shoes.

As Karen delves into the decades-old tragedy, she also is drawn into a woman’s domestic violence situation that seems to be on the verge of escalating.

McDermid’s affinity for multilayered plots and complex characters continues to excel in “Broken Ground,” her 32nd novel. Work consumes Karen, allowing her to compartmentalize her grief over the death of the man she loved, Phil Parhatka, a fellow detective killed in the line of duty. Juggling the cases, she also deals with a new detective assigned to her tiny squad, who may be spying on her for their new boss who despises Karen.

Police politics and crime investigations soar in “Broken Ground,” but McDermid’s look at the Highlands during World War II gives a new insight into Scotland’s role during the war.

And beware of those peat bogs — you may never return.


Baldacci introduces readers to Atlee Pine in new thriller

Jeff Ayers

David Baldacci introduces readers to FBI Special Agent Atlee Pine in his latest thriller, “Long Road to Mercy,” that is hopefully the start of a new series featuring her adventures.

Atlee Pine has a tumultuous past, but the memories of a particular day when she was 6 years old have not only isolated her from trusting people, but have also given her the strength to become an excellent agent. She has taken the most remote assignment imaginable, running the Shattered Rock, Arizona, office of the FBI. Part of its jurisdiction involves working with National Park rangers to protect the Grand Canyon.  When one of the mules used to transport riders down the canyon is found stabbed to death, Atlee is called in to investigate.

For what should have been a loud incident, nobody in the nearby camp heard anything. The man who rode the mule down to the bottom has vanished.

When she starts asking questioning the campers and the rangers in the area, Atlee is removed from any further inquiry. Two potential ranger witnesses are suddenly transferred to another park. It becomes clear that if she continues to pursue the truth, her career will be over. Her supervisors don’t know Atlee Pine at all. She has to overcome her loner mentality and work with others to stop a horrible conspiracy. Hopefully she has the time.

Baldacci excels as a storyteller when it comes to FBI agents with baggage. He also knows how to craft a complex and compelling case for his stellar heroes to solve. Baldacci is at the top of his game here. The final reveal is both exciting and shocking. Readers will fall in love with Atlee, and hopefully Baldacci will bring her back soon. (AP)



HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]

‘Broken Ground’ gives new insight to Scotland’s role in war

Baldacci introduces readers to Atlee Pine in new thriller