A Place of Execution [NOOK Book]

Overview

On a freezing day in December 1963, thirteen-year-old Alison Carter vanishes from her village. Nothing will ever be the same again for the inhabitants of the isolated hamlet in the English countryside. A young George Bennett, a newly-promoted inspector, he is determined to solve this case—even if it just to bring home a daughter's dead body to her mother.

As days progress, the likelihood that Alison has been murdered increases when a gruesome discovery is made in a cave. But ...

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A Place of Execution

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Overview

On a freezing day in December 1963, thirteen-year-old Alison Carter vanishes from her village. Nothing will ever be the same again for the inhabitants of the isolated hamlet in the English countryside. A young George Bennett, a newly-promoted inspector, he is determined to solve this case—even if it just to bring home a daughter's dead body to her mother.

As days progress, the likelihood that Alison has been murdered increases when a gruesome discovery is made in a cave. But with no corpse, the barest of clues, and an investigation that turns up more questions than answers, Bennett finds himself up against a stone wall...until he learns the shocking truth—a truth that will have far-reaching consequences.

Decades later, Bennett finally tells his story to journalist Catherine Heathcote. But just when the book is posed for publication, he pulls the plug on it without explanation. He has new information that he will not divulge. Refusing to let the past remain a mystery, Catherine sets out to uncover what really happened to Alison Carter. But the secret is one she might wish she'd left buried on that cold, dark day thirty-five years ago.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
A 2001 EDGAR AWARD NOMINEE FOR BEST NOVEL

The Barnes & Noble Review
To put the matter simply, veteran crime writer Val McDermid's latest novel, A Place of Execution, is an astonishing piece of work: suspenseful, moving, evocative, and filled with unexpected twists and turns. Not surprisingly, it was a finalist for the British Crime Writers Association's Gold Dagger Award as Best Novel of 1999. Its American incarnation seems poised to repeat that success and should become a primary contender for all of the mystery field's major awards.

The bulk of the narrative takes place in 1963 and is set against the bleak, inhospitable Derbyshire countryside. The story begins with the disappearance of 30-year-old Alison Carter, who vanishes without a trace while walking her dog on the moors outside her isolated village of Scardale. Alison's disappearance triggers a protracted, painstakingly detailed investigation that affects the lives of literally dozens of people. Included among them are Alison's distraught mother; her remote, self-absorbed stepfather; her xenophobic Scardale neighbors; and a decent, dogged police inspector named George Bennett, whose determination to unravel the mystery develops into a personal crusade that will color the remainder of his life.

For weeks on end, the investigation goes nowhere. And though the few available clues indicate probable foul play, Alison's body is never found. Eventually, despite the absence of a body, investigators unearth an incriminating cache of physical evidence, identify a particularly loathsome culprit, and successfully prosecute him for murder. Most suspense novels would end at this point, but McDermid has a whole new set of surprises in reserve.

Moving her narrative forward almost 35 years, she takes us into the distant aftermath of the crime and into the life of Catherine Heathcote, the investigative journalist whose re-creation of the Alison Carter case constitutes the first 300 pages of this novel. The final section recounts the unexpected revelations that Catherine -- in conjunction with the now retired George Bennett -- gradually uncovers. These revelations cast the events of 1963 in a startling new light, transforming a straightforward tale of murder and its consequences into a wholly original account of conspiracy, sexual misconduct, and carefully calculated revenge.

McDermid's novel really is, in that overworked phrase, a tour de force. Even its reliance on a single, massive coincidence seems somehow justified and lends the narrative the emotional resonance of classical Greek tragedy. A Place of Execution is, throughout, an intelligently constructed, masterfully sustained performance and deserves the attention of discerning readers on both sides of the Atlantic.

--Bill Sheehan

Bill Sheehan reviews horror, suspense, and science fiction for Cemetery Dance, The New York Review of Science Fiction, and other publications. His book-length critical study of the fiction of Peter Straub, At the Foot of the Story Tree, has just been published by Subterranean Press (www.subterraneanpress.com).

The Wall Street Journal
Masterly....Inventively conceived and wonderfully written, A Place of Execution is a marvel from start to finish.
New York Times Book Review
Val McDermid's elegiac study of a henious crime and its aftermath, is very much in the (P.D.) Jamesian mode, both in its inventive use of devices of detection and its mournful view of murder as a moral reckoning.
Toby Bromberg
Val McDermid has created a novel so intense and vivid that the reader suspends her own reality and enters the world of Scardale in 1963. The story is tightly told with characters so memorable that they become part of our life. A brilliantly logical denouement stuns and shatters us, making this a most remarkable reading experience.
Romantic Times
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This superb novel should make Gold Dagger-nominee McDermid's reputation and bring her new readers in droves. It's December 1963 and teenage girls all over Britain are swooning to the Beatles' "I Want to Hold Your Hand." In the tiny, remote village of Scardale, Derbyshire, 13-year-old Alison Carter is envied by her peers because her stepfather buys her all the latest records. When Alison goes missing one dark night, Dist. Insp. George Bennett takes control of the case, despite being new to the job and the district. Other children have gone missing recently from towns and cities in the north, but somehow Alison's case is different. Although the police feverishly track down clues and organize searches over the moors, any hope that they'll find the girl fades as the days go by. Obsessed by the case, George is tormented by his lack of success and by the suffering of Alison's mother. Little more can be said without giving away key plot points, but McDermid spins a haunting tale whose complexity never masks her adroitness at creating memorable characters and scenes. Her narrative spell is such that the reader is immersed immediately in the rural Britain of the early '60s. She clearly did extensive research on how police work was done at the time, and it has paid off beautifully. The format of the novel is unusual, with much of it purporting to be a true crime book, but McDermid keeps the suspense taut, and her pacing never flags. This is an extraordinary achievement, and it's sure to be on many lists of the best mysteries of the year. 10-city author tour. (Sept. 20) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Internet Book Watch
It was just a couple weeks before Christmas when teenager Alison Carter disappeared. Perhaps in London no one would notice, but in the tightly woven farming community of Scarsdale, that is a frightening shocker. Detective Inspector George Bennett takes charge of the inquiry in the small Derbyshire hamlet, knowing this case could end his career before it starts. With no clues and even fewer suspects, the police turn to the lass' stepfather Philip Hawkin as the alleged killer. In 1998, journalist Catherine Heathcote wants to write a true crime book focusing on the Carter case. She obtains cooperation from the now retired George. However, as Catherine conducts her research, George learns something new that shakes him. Soon he suffers a heart attack that leaves him unconscious, and if he survives, he will probably be brain damaged. Already highly regarded by fans and critics, Val McDermid has written her masterpiece, a novel that is a sure shot to make all the lists. A Place Of Execution is a serious tome centering on what is justice and who is answerable to society and the victims when the system fails. The characters are fully developed, and the middle sixties feels genuine. This novel is Ms. McDermid's most ambitious and complex work, but she more than triumphs with this extraordinary book.
—Internet Book Watch
Atlantic Monthly
A novel about a murder in which the police find the culprit but not the body--a circumstance rich in the stuff of which page turners are made...McDermid...generates curiousity and, finally, whiplash surprise.
From the Publisher
"One of the most ingenious mystery novels ever."—Newsday

"Inventivly conceived and wonderfully written...A marvel from start to finish."—Wall Street Journal

"Val McDemid's best work to date."—Times Literary Supplement

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781429907033
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 4/1/2010
  • Sold by: Macmillan
  • Format: eBook
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 416
  • Sales rank: 81,879
  • File size: 757 KB

Meet the Author

VAL McDERMID is the internationally bestselling author of more than twenty crime novels, including the #1 bestseller The Retribution. She has won the CWA Gold Dagger for best crime novel of the year and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize (mystery/thriller). Her novels have been selected as New York Times Notable Books and Edgar Award finalists. She was the 2010 recipient of the CWA Cartier Diamond Dagger for outstanding achievement in the field of crime writing. In 2011, she received the Pioneer Award at the 23rd Annual Lambda Literary Awards. Her work has been published in thirty countries; more than ten million copies of her books have been sold around the world. She lives in the north of England.

WEB: valmcdermid.com

TWITTER: @valmcdermid

FACEBOOK: Val McDermid

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Read an Excerpt

A Place of Execution


By Val McDermid

St. Martin's Press

Copyright © 2001 Val McDermid
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0312979533


Chapter One


Wednesday, 11th December 1963. 7.53 p.m.


'Help me. You've got to help me.' The woman's voice quavered on the edge of tears. The duty constable who had picked up the phone heard a hiccuping gulp, as if the caller was struggling to speak.

'That's what we're here for, madam,' PC Ron Swindells said stolidly. He'd worked in Buxton man and boy for the best part of fifteen years and for the last five, he'd found it hard to shake off a sense that he was reliving the first ten. There was, he reckoned, nothing new under the sun. It was a view that would be irrevocably shattered by the events that were about to unfold around him, but for the moment, he was content to trot out the formula that had served him well until now. 'What seems to be the problem?' he asked, his rich bass voice gently impersonal.

'Alison,' the woman gasped. 'My Alison's not come home.'

'Alison's your lass, is she?' PC Swindells asked, his voice deliberately calm, attempting to reassure the woman.

'She went straight out with the dog when she came in after school. And she's not come home.' The sharp edge of hysteria forced the woman's voice higher.

Swindells glanced automatically at the clock. Seven minutes before eight. The woman was right to be worried. The girl must have been out of the house near on four hours, and that was no joke at this time of year. 'Could she have gone to visit friends, on the spur of the moment, like?' he asked, knowing already that would have been her first port of call before she lifted the telephone.

'I've knocked every door in the village. She's missing, I'm telling you. Something's happened to my Alison.' Now the woman was breaking down, her words choking out in the intervals between sobs. Swindells thought he heard the rumble of another voice in the background.

Village, the woman had said. 'Where exactly are you calling from, madam?' he asked.

There was the sound of muffled conversation, then a clear masculine voice came on the line, the unmistakable southern accent brisk with authority. 'This is Philip Hawkin from the manor house in Scardale,' he said.

'I see, sir,' Swindells said cautiously. While the information didn't exactly change anything, it did make the policeman slightly wary, conscious that Scardale was off his beat in more ways than the obvious. Scardale wasn't just a different world from the bustling market town where Swindells lived and worked; it had the reputation of being a law unto itself. For such a call to come from Scardale, something well out of the ordinary must have happened.

The caller's voice dropped in pitch, giving the impression that he was talking man to man with Swindells. 'You must excuse my wife. She's rather upset. So emotional, women, don't you find? Look, Officer, I'm sure no harm has come to Alison, but my wife insisted on giving you a call. I'm sure she'll turn up any minute now, and the last thing I want is to waste your time.'

'If you'll just give me some details, sir,' the stolid Swindells said, pulling his pad closer to him.


Detective Inspector George Bennett should have been at home long since. It was almost eight o'clock, well beyond the hour when senior detectives were expected to be at their desks. By rights, he should have been in his armchair stretching his long legs in front of a blazing coal fire, dinner inside him and Coronation Street on the television opposite. Then, while Anne cleared away the dishes and washed up, he'd nip out for a pint and a chat in the lounge bar of the Duke of York or the Baker's Arms. There was no quicker way to get the feel of a place than through bar-room conversation. And he needed that head start more than any of his colleagues, being an incomer of less than six months' standing. He knew the locals didn't trust him with much of their gossip, but gradually, they were beginning to treat him like part of the furniture, forgiving and forgetting that his father and grandfather had supped in a different part of the shire.

He glanced at his watch. He'd be lucky to get to the pub tonight. Not that he counted that a great hardship. George wasn't a drinking man. If he hadn't been obliged by his professional responsibilities to keep his finger firmly on the pulse of the town, he wouldn't have entered a pub from one week to the next. He'd much rather have taken Anne dancing to one of the new beat groups that regularly played at the Pavilion Gardens, or to the Opera House to see a film. Or simply stayed at home. Three months married, and George still couldn't quite believe Anne had agreed to spend the rest of her life with him. It was a miracle that sustained him through the worst times in the job. So far, those had come from tedium rather than the heinous nature of the crimes he encountered. The events of the coming seven months would put that miracle to a tougher test.

That night, however, the thought of Anne at home, knitting in front of the television while she waited for him to return, was far more of a temptation than any pint of bitter. George tore a half-sheet of paper off his scratch pad, placed it among the papers he'd been reading to mark his place, and firmly closed the file, slipping it into his desk drawer. He stubbed out his Gold Leaf cigarette then emptied his ashtray into the bin by his desk, always his last act before he reached for his trench coat and, self-consciously, the wide-brimmed trilby that always made him feel faintly silly. Anne loved it; she was always telling him it made him look like James Stewart. He couldn't see it himself. Just because he had a long face and floppy blond hair didn't make him a film star. He shrugged into the coat, noting that it fitted almost too snugly now, thanks to the quilted lining Anne had made him buy. In spite of the slight straining across his broad cricketer's shoulders, he knew he'd be glad of it as soon as he stepped into the station yard and the teeth of the biting wind that always seemed to be whipping down from the moors through the streets of Buxton.

Taking a last look around his office to check he'd left nothing lying around that the cleaner's eyes shouldn't see, he closed the door behind him. A quick glance showed him there was nobody left in the CID room, so he turned back to indulge a moment's vanity. 'Detective Inspector G. D. Bennett' incised in white letters on a small black plastic plaque. It was something to be proud of, he thought. Not yet thirty, and a DI already. It had been worth every tedious minute of the three years of endless cramming for the law degree that had eased him on to the fast track, one of the first ever graduates to make it to the new accelerated promotion stream in the Derbyshire force. Now, seven years from swearing his oath of allegiance, he was the youngest plain-clothes inspector the county force had ever promoted.

There was no one about to see the lapse of dignity, so he took the stairs at a run. His momentum carried him through the swing doors into the uniformed squad room. Three heads turned sharply as he entered. For a moment, George couldn't think why it was so quiet. Then he remembered. Half the town would be at the memorial service for the recently assassinated President Kennedy, a special Mass open to all denominations. The town had claimed the murdered leader as an adopted native son. After all, JFK had practically been there only months before his death, visiting his sister's grave a handful of miles away in Edensor in the grounds of Chatsworth House. The fact that one of the nurses who had helped surgeons in the fruitless fight for the president's life in a Dallas hospital was a Buxton woman had only strengthened the connection in the eyes of the locals.

'All quiet, then, Sergeant?' he asked.

Bob Lucas, the duty sergeant, frowned and raised one shoulder in a half-shrug. He glanced at the sheet of paper in his hand. 'We were until five minutes ago, sir.' He straightened up. 'It's probably summat and nowt,' he said. 'A pound to a penny it'll be sorted before I even get there.'

'Anything interesting?' George asked, keeping his voice light. The last thing he wanted was for Bob Lucas to think he was the kind of CID man who treated uniforms as if they were the monkeys and he the organ grinder.

'Missing lass,' Lucas said, proffering the sheet of paper. 'PC Swindells just took the call. They rang here direct, not through the emergency switchboard.'

George tried to picture Scardale on his mental map of the area. 'Do we have a local man there, Sergeant?' he stalled.

'No need. It's barely a hamlet. Ten houses at the most. No, Scardale's covered by Peter Grundy at Longnor. He's only two miles away. But the mother obviously thought this was too important for Peter.'

'And you think?' George was cautious.

'I think I'd better take the area car out to Scardale and have a word with Mrs Hawkin, sir. I'll pick up Peter on the way.' As he spoke, Lucas reached for his cap and straightened it on hair that was almost as black and glossy as his boots. His ruddy cheeks looked as if he had a pair of Ping-Pong balls tucked inside his mouth. Combined with glittering dark eyes and straight black eyebrows, they gave him the look of a painted ventriloquist's dummy. But George had already found out that Bob Lucas was the last person to let anyone else put words in his mouth. He knew that if he asked a question of Lucas, he'd get a straight answer.

'Would you mind if I came along?' George asked.



Peter Grundy replaced the phone softly in its cradle. He rubbed his thumb along a jaw sandpaper-rough with the day's stubble. He was thirty-two years old that night in December 1963. Photographs show a fresh-faced man with a narrow jaw and a short, sharp nose accentuated by an almost military haircut. Even smiling, as he was in holiday snaps with his children, his eyes seemed watchful.

Two calls in the space of ten minutes had broken the routine peace of an evening in front of the TV with his wife Meg, the children bathed and in bed. It wasn't that he hadn't taken the first call seriously. When old Ma Lomas, the eyes and ears of Scardale, took the trouble to subject her arthritis to the biting cold by leaving the comfort of her cottage for the phone box on the village green, he had to pay attention. But he'd thought he could wait till eight o'clock and the end of the programme before he did anything about it. After all, Ma might be dressing up the reason for her call as concern over a missing schoolgirl, but Grundy wasn't so sure it wasn't just an excuse to stir things up for the lass's mother. He'd heard the talk and knew there were a few in Scardale as thought Ruth Carter had been a bit quick to jump the broomstick with Philip Hawkin, even if he had been the first man to put roses in her cheeks since her Roy had died.

Then the phone had rung again, bringing a scowl to his wife's face and dragging him out of his comfortable armchair into the chilly hall. This time, he couldn't ignore the summons. Sergeant Lucas from Buxton knew about the missing girl, and he was on his way. As if it wasn't bad enough having Buxton boots tramping all over his ground, he was bringing the Professor with him. It was the first time Grundy or any of his colleagues had ever had to work with somebody that had been to university, and he knew from the gossip on his occasional visits to the sub-division in Buxton that they were none of them comfortable with the idea. He hadn't been slow to join the mutterings about the university of life being the best teacher for a copper. These graduates -- you couldn't send them out of a Saturday night on to Buxton marketplace. They'd never have seen a pub fight in all their born days, never mind know how to deal with one. As far as Grundy could make out, the only good thing that could be said about DI Bennett was that he could turn a handy bat at cricket. And that wasn't reason enough for Grundy to be happy about him arriving on his patch to upset his carefully nurtured contacts.

With a sigh, he buttoned up his shirt collar. He pulled on his tunic jacket, straightened his cap on his head and picked up his overcoat. He stuck his head round the living room door, a conciliatory smile fastened nervously on his face. 'I've to go to Scardale,' he said.

'Shh,' his wife admonished him crossly. 'It's getting to the exciting bit.'

'Alison Carter's gone missing,' he added, spitefully closing the living room door behind him and hurrying down the hall before she could react. And react she would, he knew only too well. A missing child in Scardale was far too close to home for Longnor not to feel a chill wind on its neck.


George Bennett followed Sergeant Lucas out to the yard where the cars were parked. He'd have far preferred to travel in his own car, a stylish black Ford Corsair as new as his promotion, but protocol demanded he climb into the passenger seat of the liveried Rover and let Lucas drive. As they turned south on the main road through the market square, George tried to stifle the prickle of excitement that had stirred in him when he had heard the words, 'missing lass'. Chances were, as Lucas had rightly pointed out, that it would all come to nothing. More than ninety-five per cent of cases of children reported missing ended in reunion before bedtime, or at worst, before breakfast.

But sometimes, it was a different story. Sometimes, a missing child stayed missing long enough for the certainty to grow that he or she would never come home. Occasionally, that was from choice. More often, it was because the child was dead and the question for the police then became how long it would take them to find a body.

And sometimes, they seemed to vanish as cleanly as if the earth had opened up and gulped them down.

There had been two cases like that within the last six months, both of them less than thirty miles away from Scardale. George always made a careful note of bulletins from outside forces as well as other Derbyshire divisions, and he had paid particular attention to these two missing persons cases because they were just close enough that the children might fetch up on his patch. Dead or alive.

First had been Pauline Catherine Reade. Dark-haired and hazel-eyed, sixteen years old, a trainee confectioner from Gorton, Manchester. Slim build, about five feet tall, wearing a pink and gold dress and a pale-blue coat. Just before eight on Friday, 12th July, she had walked out of the terraced house where she lived with her parents and her younger brother to go to a twist dance. She was never seen again. There had been no trouble at home or at work. She had no boyfriend to fall out with. She had no money to run away with, even if she'd wanted to. The area had been extensively searched and three local reservoirs drained, all without a trace of Pauline. Manchester police had followed up every report of a sighting, but none had led them to the vanished girl.

The second missing child appeared to have nothing in common with Pauline Reade apart from the inexplicable, almost magical nature of his disappearance. John Kilbride, 12 years old, 4ft 10 ins tall with a slim build, dark-brown hair, blue eyes and a fresh complexion. He was wearing a grey check sports jacket, long grey flannel trousers, a white shirt and black, chisel-toed shoes. According to one of the Lancashire detectives George knew from cricket, he wasn't a bright lad, but a pleasant and obliging one. John went to the cinema with some friends on Saturday afternoon, the day after Kennedy died in Dallas. Afterwards, he left them, saying he was going down to the marketplace in Ashton-under-Lyne, where he often earned threepence making tea for the stallholders. The last anyone saw of him, he was leaning against a salvage bin around half past five.

The resulting hunt had been given a last desperate boost only the day before when a local businessman had offered a £100 reward. But nothing appeared to have come of it. That same colleague had remarked to George only the previous Saturday at a police dance, that John Kilbride and Pauline Reade would have left more traces if they'd been abducted by little green men in a flying saucer.

And now a missing gift on his patch. He stared out of the window at the moonlit fields lining the Ashbourne road, their rough pasture crusted with hoarfrost, the dry-stone walls that separated them almost luminous in the silvery light. A thin cloud crossed the moon and in spite of his warm coat, George shivered at the thought of being without shelter on a night like this in so inhospitable a landscape.

Faintly disgusted with himself for allowing his eagerness for a big case to overwhelm the concern for the girl and her family that should have been all that was on his mind, George turned abruptly to Bob Lucas and said, 'Tell me about Scardale.' He took out his cigarettes and offered one to the sergeant, who shook his head.

'I won't, thanks, sir. I'm trying to cut down. Scardale's what you might call the land that time forgot,' he said. In the short spurt of light from George's match, Lucas's face looked grim.

'How do you mean?

'It's like the Middle Ages down there. There's only one road in and out and it comes to a dead end by the telephone box on the village green. There's the big house, the manor, which is where we're headed. There's about a dozen other cottages and the farm buildings. No pub, no shop, no post office. Mr Hawkin, he's what you might call the squire. He owns every house in Scardale, plus the farm, plus all the land a mile in all directions. Everybody that lives there is his tenant and his employee. It's like he owns them an' all.' The sergeant slowed to turn right off the main road on to the narrow lane that led up past the quarry. 'There's only three surnames in the place, I reckon. You're either a Lomas, a Crowther or a Carter.'

Not, George noticed, a Hawkin. He filed the inconsistency away for later inspection. 'Surely people must leave, to get married, to get work?'

'Oh aye, people leave,' Lucas said. 'But they're always Scardale through and through. They never lose it. And every generation, one or two people do marry out. It's the only way to avoid wedding your cousins. But often as not, them as have married into Scardale come out a few years later looking for a divorce. Funny thing is, they always leave the kids behind them.' He cast a quick glance at George, almost to see how he was taking it.

George inhaled his cigarette and kept his own counsel for a moment. He'd heard of places like this, he'd just never actually been in one. He couldn't begin to imagine what it must be like to be part of a world so self-contained, so limited, where everything about your past, present and future must be information shared with an entire community. 'It's hard to believe a place like that could exist so close to the town. What is it? Seven miles?'

'Eight,' Lucas said. 'It's historical. Look at the pitch of these roads.' He pointed up at the sharp left turn into the village of Earl Sterndale where the houses built by the quarry company to house their workers huddled along the hillside like a rugby scrum. 'Before we had cars with decent engines and proper tarmac roads, it could take you the best part of a day to get from Scardale to Buxton in the winter. That's when the track wasn't blocked with snowdrifts. Folk had to rely on their own. Some places around here, they just never got out of the habit.

'Take this lass, Alison. Even with the school bus, it probably takes her the best part of an hour to get to and from school every day. The county have been trying to get parents to agree to sending children like her as boarders Monday to Friday, to save them the journey. But places like Scardale, they just flat refuse. They don't see it as the county trying to help them. They think it's the authorities trying to take their children off them. There's no reasoning with them.'

The car swung through a series of sharp bends and began to climb a steep ridge, the engine straining as Lucas changed down through the gears. George opened the quarterlight and flicked the remains of his cigarette on to the verge. A draught of frosty air tinged with smoke from a coal fire caught at his throat and he hastily closed the window. 'And yet Mrs Hawkin wasn't slow to call us in.'

'According to PC Swindells, she'd knocked every door in Scardale first, though,' Lucas said drily. 'Don't take me wrong. It's not that they're hostile to the police. They're just ... not very forthcoming, that's all. They'll want Alison found. So they'll put up with us.'

The car breasted the rise and began the long descent into the village of Longnor. The limestone buildings crouched like sleeping sheep, dirty white in the moonlight, with plumes of smoke rising from every chimney in sight. At the crossroads in the centre of the village, George could see the unmistakable outline of a uniformed officer, stamping his feet on the ground to keep them warm.

'That'll be Peter Grundy,' Lucas said. 'He could have waited indoors.'

'Maybe he's impatient to find out what's happening. It is his patch, after all.'

Lucas grunted. 'More likely his missus giving him earache about having to go out of an evening.'

He braked a little too hard and the car slewed into the kerb. PC Peter Grundy stooped to see who was in the passenger seat, then climbed into the back of the car. 'Evening, Sarge,' he said. 'Sir,' he added, inclining his head towards George. 'I don't like the sound of this at all.'

Continues...


Excerpted from A Place of Execution by Val McDermid Copyright © 2001 by Val McDermid. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 34 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Brilliant work of art

    It was just a couple weeks before Christmas when teenager Alison Carter disappeared. Perhaps in London no one would notice, but in the tightly woven farming community of Scarsdale, that is a frightening shocker. Detective Inspector George Bennett takes charge of the inquiry in the small Derbyshire hamlet, knowing this case could end his career before it starts. With no clues and even fewer suspects, the police turn to the lass¿ stepfather Philip Hawkin as the alleged killer. <P> In 1998, journalist Catherine Heathcote wants to write a true crime book focusing on the Carter case. She obtains cooperation from the now retired George. However, as Catherine conducts her research, George learns something new that shakes him. Soon he suffers a heart attack that leaves him unconscious, and if he survives, he will probably be brain damaged. <P> Already highly regarded by fans and critics, Val McDermid has written her masterpiece, a novel that is a sure shot to make all the lists. A PLACE OF EXECUTION is a serious tome centering on what is justice and who is answerable to society and the victims when the system fails. The characters are fully developed, and the middle sixties feels genuine. This novel is Ms. McDermid¿s most ambitious and complex work, but she more than triumphs with this extraordinary book. <P>Harriet Klausner

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 13, 2012

    A good read from start to finish

    I actually found this book at a Dollar store! McDermid sets the stage slowly, carefully,. This starts out slow due to the detail in building the characters and setting the scene. Once she has accomplished this, the search for Alison starts. I found it hard to put the book down and quit thinking about how this would turn out. Twists, turns, and OMG moments make this a book I would suggest to anyone that loves a really well written mystery.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 31, 2011

    WOW!

    If suspensful, mysterious British psychological thrillers are your thing, this is the book for you! Set in 1963, a teenage girl from a small village vanishes....where is she? Is she alive or dead? What happened to her and who did it? I was torn between wanting this book to never end and needing to know what happened. Read it today!
    If you enjoy this book, I would also recommend: the books of Ruth Rendell (especially End in Tears and Not in the Flesh) as well as anything by Barbara Vine; The Jack Reacher series by Lee Child and the books of Minette Walters (esp: The Shape of Snakes and The Devil's Feather).

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 27, 2008

    A reviewer

    This book is the best book i've ever read. I found it in a garbage can and i wodered what kind of person would throw such excellence out. Anyway, The plot of this book is amazing. The ending is great. Once i began to read it I couldn't stop. I even got my literature teacher to read it.She was impressed. You can write amazingly. I love your book.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 16, 2013

    Great ending

    The main character, George, becomes someone you want to meet.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 19, 2014

    I've been up until 3AM for the last two nights because I could n

    I've been up until 3AM for the last two nights because I could not put this down. Val McDermid is a recent discovery for me and I don't know how I managed to survive this long without devouring every single McDermid novel out there. Better late than never....!

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  • Posted November 13, 2012

    The end is unpredictable. The writing is good.

    The end is unpredictable. The writing is good.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 9, 2012

    Anonymous


    Too predictable from the beginning.
    Too drawn out. Overated in general literary quality. Would not recommend to anyone.

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  • Posted May 8, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Great British Mystery

    This book reels you in almost immediately - and you are never disappointed. I would recommend this book for anyone who enjoys mysteries, especially British novels. The way the author describes the area where the crime occurs is so precise I could picture it in my mind every time George went there. Enjoy!!

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  • Posted May 5, 2010

    A frequently mentioned topic in today's media, missing and exploited children, Val McDermid's 1963 setting and investigation reminds us how far we've come in our fight for justice.

    The people of the tiny hamlet Scarsdale pulled a fast one. No one in my bookclub foresaw the ending. The characters were all open for plenty of discussion. Go George!

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  • Posted October 26, 2009

    A Place of Execution

    One of the best books I've read in a long time. PBS are doing a two part British drama based on this book on November 2, 2009.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 20, 2005

    Brilliant!!!

    I couldn't put this book down from the moment I picked it up, a brilliant story with plenty of twists and turns, and a great plot.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 27, 2004

    Incredible -- Well Worthy of Edgar Award Nomination

    Val McDermid is a master author with vivid, multi-layered characterizations as well as a gripping, perfectly written story spanning almost 40 years in a small English village. A must!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 5, 2003

    A brilliant easy read.

    I could not put this book down. The author has done an amazing job of describing village life in Great Britain in the 60's. The plot was easy to follow, it flowed so easily. It is a great effortless read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 8, 2002

    scarry....addictive

    This is a dark and frightening tale that held me captive until the end. The 'author within the story' plotline was nothing short of literary genius. Bravo, Ms. Mcdermid.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 12, 2001

    Suspenseful, but predicable

    I really don't think I'm that smart, but I had the story figured out quite early in this book. The writing is good especially at first but I didn't enjoy the book as much as others did. This did seem to be a great description of British villages and characters. I think I will stick to my 'cozies' though.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 14, 2001

    Outstanding book

    This was my first exposure to this author. I couldn't read fast enough to see what was coming next. If Val McDermid's other books are as good as this one, she's got a new fan.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 4, 2000

    Sure about turning off the light?

    I think one good measure of a mystery is how early in the book you can make an educated guess about what the truth is. If the solution is apparent too soon, bad mystery, the farther into the book you have to travel, can indicate just how clever the writing has been. Wild guesses don¿t count. This is the first book I have read by Ms. Val Mcdermid, I will be backtracking to her earlier work, and whatever comes next is an automatic purchase. This lady writes an amazing story. Even though the book runs to 404 pages, you will be in a select group if the riddles are solved much before the last several dozen pages. And if it is the last dozen, don¿t worry, this Authoress is that good at not showing her hand, her complete hand until the very end. The book is set in a contemporary time frame, but the isolated nature of where the story unfolds makes the reader feel as though it¿s the 19th and not the 20th Century. Ms. Mcdermid also plays with what may or may not actually be true. From the very beginning, even prior to the start of the story, the reader is getting set up, or perhaps misdirected, for the Author¿s voice and the voice of the Author in the tale share a line that is indistinct at best. I thought it very clever, and it added an interesting element that stayed at the back of my mind throughout the work. I finished the book on a very stormy night, which could have been taken directly from the book. The storm had driven my 8-year-old son into the room. When I finished, Ms. Mcdermid had succeeded in scaring the blazes from me. I suggested my son might want to keep the light on for a bit. To my disappointment he said no.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 19, 2000

    A book that cannot be put down-a real gem of a read.

    This is an absolutely riveting read-a must for anyone who likes a modern whodunnit?Just when it appears that the readers mind is in conformity with what appears to be the final outcome,Ms McDermid provides an intriguing twist that leaves you open mouthed and stunned for a few days after you have finally labored to add the book to your bookshelf.More than a read ,it gives a fascinating sociological account of life in Northern England in the 1960`s during the realm of the infamous Moors Murderers,Brady and Hyndley ,that is beautifully interwoven within a place of execution.A must get book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 9, 2000

    A Magnificent Spellbinder

    McDermid's book was the most enjoyable mystery I read since The Alienist. Fabulously written, great suspense, vivid characters- I read A Place of Execution in only a couple of sittings. The proverbial page-turner.

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