A Darker Domain (Karen Pirie Series #1)

A Darker Domain (Karen Pirie Series #1)

by Val McDermid


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“[A Darker Domain] combines a thrilling story with heartbreaking questions of social justice and history.”
Seattle Times


The New York Times calls Val McDermid, “As smooth a practitioner of crime fiction as anyone out there…the best we’ve got.” Time spent with her extraordinary thriller, A Darker Domain, will prove that it’s true. Set in Scotland, the milieu of Ian Rankin’s John Rebus, McDermid’s brilliant exploration of loyalty and greed intertwines the past and present. It was chosen as a New York Times Notable Crime Book of the Year and was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780061688997
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 06/15/2010
Series: Karen Pirie Series , #1
Pages: 355
Sales rank: 156,274
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

VAL McDERMID is the internationally bestselling author of more than twenty crime novels. She has won the CWA Gold Dagger Award for Best Crime Novel of the Year and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize; her novels have been selected as New York Times Notable Books and have been Edgar Award finalists. She was the 2010 recipient of the CWA Cartier Diamond Dagger for Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Crime Writing. More than 10 million copies of her books have been sold around the world. She lives in the north of England. Visit her website at www.valmcdermid.com.

Read an Excerpt

A Darker Domain

A Novel

By Val McDermid
Copyright © 2009

Val McDermid
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-06-168898-0

Chapter One Wednesday, 23rd January 1985; Newton of Wemyss

The voice is soft, like the darkness that encloses them.

"You ready?"

"As ready as I'll ever be."

"You've told her what to do?" Words tumbling now, tripping over each other, a single stumble of sounds.

"Don't worry. She knows what's what. She's under no illusions about who's going to carry the can if this goes wrong." Sharp words, sharp tone. "She's not the one I'm worrying about."

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"Nothing. It means nothing, all right? We've no choices. Not here. Not now. We just do what has to be done." The words have the hollow ring of bravado. It's anybody's guess what they're hiding. "Come on, let's get it done with."

This is how it begins.

Wednesday, 27th June 2007; Glenrothes

The young woman strode across the foyer, low heels striking a rhythmic tattoo on vinyl flooring dulled by the passage of thousands of feet. She looked like someone on a mission, the civilian clerk thought as she approached his desk. But then, most of them did. The crime prevention and public information posters that lined the walls were invariably wasted on them as they approached, lost in the slipstream of their determination.

She bore down on him, her mouth set in a firm line. Not bad looking, he thought. But like a lot of the women who showed up here, she wasn't exactly looking her best. She could have done with a bit more make-up, to make the most of those sparkly blue eyes. And something more flattering than jeans and a hoodie. Dave Cruickshank assumed his fixed professional smile. "How can I help you?" he said.

The woman tilted her head back slightly, as if readying herself for defence. "I want to report a missing person."

Dave tried not to show his weary irritation. If it wasn't neighbours from hell, it was so-called missing persons. This one was too calm for it to be a missing toddler, too young for it to be a runaway teenager. A row with the boyfriend, that's what it would be. Or a senile granddad on the lam. The usual bloody waste of time. He dragged a pad of forms across the counter, squaring it in front of him and reaching for a pen. He kept the cap on; there was one key question he needed answered before he'd be taking down any details. "And how long has this person been missing?"

"Twenty-two and a half years. Since Friday the fourteenth of December 1984, to be precise." Her chin came down and truculence clouded her features. "Is that long enough for you to take it seriously?"

Detective Sergeant Phil Parhatka watched the end of the video clip then closed the window. "I tell you," he said, "if ever there was a great time to be in cold cases, this is it."

Detective Inspector Karen Pirie barely raised her eyes from the file she was updating. "How?"

"Stands to reason. We're in the middle of the war on terror. And I've just watched my local MP taking possession of 10 Downing Street with his missus." He jumped up and crossed to the mini-fridge perched on top of a filing cabinet. "What would you rather be doing? Solving cold cases and getting good publicity for it, or trying to make sure the muzzers dinnae blow a hole in the middle of our patch?"

"You think Gordon Brown becoming prime minister makes Fife a target?" Karen marked her place in the document with her index finger and gave Phil her full attention. It dawned on her that for too long she'd had her head too far in the past to weigh up present possibilities. "They never bothered with Tony Blair's constituency when he was in charge."

"Very true." Phil peered into the fridge, deliberating between an Irn Bru and a Vimto. Thirty-four years old and still he couldn't wean himself off the soft drinks that had been treats in childhood. "But these guys call themselves Islamic jihadists and Gordon's a son of the manse. I wouldn't want to be in the chief constable's shoes if they decide to make a point by blowing up his dad's old kirk." He chose the Vimto. Karen shuddered.

"I don't know how you can drink that stuff," she said. "Have you never noticed it's an anagram of vomit?"

Phil took a long pull on his way back to his desk. "Puts hairs on your chest," he said.

"Better make it two cans, then." There was an edge of envy in Karen's voice. Phil seemed to live on sugary drinks and saturated fats but he was still as compact and wiry as he'd been when they were rookies together. She just had to look at a fully leaded Coke to feel herself gaining inches. It definitely wasn't fair.

Phil narrowed his dark eyes and curled his lip in a good-natured sneer. "Whatever. The silver lining is that maybe the boss can screw some more money out of the government if he can persuade them there's an increased threat."

Karen shook her head, on solid ground now. "You think that famous moral compass would let Gordon steer his way towards anything that looked that self-serving?" As she spoke, she reached for the phone that had just begun to ring. There were other, more junior officers in the big squad room that housed the Cold Case Review Team, but promotion hadn't altered Karen's ways. She'd never got out of the habit of answering any phone that rang in her vicinity. "CCRT, DI Pirie speaking," she said absently, still turning over what Phil had said, wondering if, deep down, he had a hankering to be where the live action was.

"Dave Cruickshank on the front counter, Inspector. I've got somebody here, I think she needs to talk to you." Cruickshank sounded unsure of himself. That was unusual enough to grab Karen's attention.

"What's it about?"

"It's a missing person," he said.

"Is it one of ours?"


Excerpted from A Darker Domain by Val McDermid Copyright © 2009 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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Darker Domain 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 21 reviews.
KenCady More than 1 year ago
You need a scorecard to keep up with all the players in this convoluted novel. Things get so complicated that the author resorts to a character writing a lengthy letter trying to sort it all out for the reader. But then it all unwinds again. The resolution may seem clever, but there is just nothing left to believe at the end of this very wobbly story.
GailCooke More than 1 year ago
Blend crime, historic social commentary, mysterious doings and place them in Scotland. That's a recipe for an intriguing story which is precisely what acclaimed writer Val McDermid serves up in A Darker Domain. Those familiar with McDermid's work know that her novels are multi-layered, carefully plotted and forcefully written.
A young woman, Misha, goes to report a missing person. When she is asked how long the person has been missing her reply is "Twenty-two and a half years. Since Friday the fourteenth of December 1984, to be precise. Is that long enough for you to take it seriously?"
Why now, why wait so long to try to find someone? McDermid's story begins with a mystery and more follow in quick succession, all leading inexorably to a startling conclusion. Ah, but the fun for a reader is in getting there as the past and the present are woven together and related from various viewpoints.
The missing person is Misha's father, Mike Prentice, who left his family and home in 1984 during the national miner's strike to join other strikebreakers in Nottingham. Or, so it is believed. DI Karen Pirie, head of the Cold Case Review Team, wants to know what really happened to Prentice.
In 1985 an heiress, Catriona Maclennan Grant and Adam, her small son, were kidnaped. In the worst of all possible scenarios she is killed and Adam disappears. Leap frog from Scotland and to a quarter century later - a journalist vacationing in Tuscany discovers what may be of import to that case. Pirie is summoned to Catriona's father's home. He is wealthy almost beyond measure and one of the most powerful men in Scotland.
Too many switches in time and narrative voices were disconcerting for this reader as well as a cloudy relationship between the cases Pirie faces. Nonetheless, few can match the setting recreated by McDermid and the authenticity she brings to a Scottish police mystery. In this, her 25th book, descriptions of the miners and their families are particularly moving as McDermid comes from a mining family, and spent time with her grandparents in East Wemyss where much of the book's action takes place. She has well described the plight of the miners in 1984 in passages ringing with intensity and passion.
- Gail Cooke
ANONWZAWMN More than 1 year ago
Geography, pathology, archeology, anthropology mingled with common sense, intuition and the brain power of the two women investigating two cold cases afford readers a fascinating history of what the powers that were, did to an entire industry and the people they crushed. Murders are uncovered and disappearances put to rest. Fans and new readers should find A DARKER DOMAIN, a masterful novel that will challenge their armchair detective skills. Reviewed by Barbara Lipkien Gershenbaum
jreeder on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
As always, Val Mcdermid delivers another original plot populated with protagonists for whom I want to cheer. I am never able to predict the trajectory of events in her stories, if I could I wouldn't enjoy them so much. It was an exciting read that I finished in two days, I couldn't stand the suspense.
soniaandree on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I received this book as a SantaThing gift and I was pleasantly surprised by the storyline! The disappearance of a miner in the 1980s and the kidnapping of an heiress and her son are brought together in various investigative twists, and, while I still prefer the 'Tony Hill' series, I have enjoyed reading about Karen. Far from the the usual psychos and horrific murders in the other series, in here the characters are very much down to earth and likeable. There are no dismembered bodies to speak (much) of and the ending is not what you would call 'happy' but is nearer to what is real in terms of office politics and relationships. Highly recommended.
michdubb on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
An interesting mystery book that is set during a mining strike and this gives story a little something extra. The plot is a bit silly, as most mystery stories are, but it kept my attention until the end.
bigorangemichael on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
It may have been a mistake to read "A Dark Domain" as close to the new Laura Lippman novel as I did. Lippman's stories always set my expectations bar high for mystery stories. I really did think Val McDermid had it in her to compete with Lippman. I consumed "A Place of Execution" a few years ago, but I have to be honest that McDermid's novels since then have been rather hit or miss for me. Chalk "A Dark Domain" up as a miss.
rowenawrites on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
When miner Mick Prentice disappeared in the 1980s it was commonly believed that he had broken ranks with striking miners and headed for greener pastures, leaving behind a wife and young daughter. Twenty years later, Mick¿s daughter must find a donor for her dying child, and finding Mick alive is her last chance. Meanwhile, a journalist on holiday in Tuscany uncovers a key piece of evidence in an unsolved kidnapping case. Gaining access to the reclusive and extremely wealthy father of the kidnapped woman, the investigative journalist has the scoop of her life. DI Karen Pirie finds herself with pieces from both cold case puzzles. McDermid, author of the Wire in the Blood series of mysteries, has produced another quality nail-biter with A Darker Domain.
mikedraper on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Det Inspector Karne Pirie and Det. Sgt Phil Parheta of the cold case squad are asked to find a person missing for over 20 years.Michelle "Misha" Gibson is desperately searching for her dad, Mick Prentice, who was apparently a strikebreaker in the 1984 miner's strike after which he disappeared. Both Misha and her mother thought that Mick had betrayed them by joining five others to break the strike and they didn't want any more to do with him. However, Misha and her husband John are in need. Their son Luke has Fanconi Anemia and is in need of a bone marrow donor and there's no one else to turn to.As Karen investigates this case, she is sent to the home of Sir Broderick Maclellan Grant, whose daughter and grandson were kidnapped in 1984. The payoff was botched and Cat Grant was killed, her son was never found. Now a tourist to Tuscany, Bel Richmond, who is also a reporter, has found some inportant evidence.With the two cases going on and the story bouncing back and forth from 1984 to the present, it was somewhat confusing and hard to remember which case was which.In spite of that, the story went well and was enjoyable.
kraaivrouw on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Val McDermid delivers consistently good mystery fiction. Her series with Tony Hill is excellent throughout & I have yet to read a standalone of hers that wasn't also wonderful.McDermid writes wonderfully complex & twisty characters & plots. I also really enjoy her settings - typically the North of England or Scotland - places we all tend to read less about.Born into a coal mining family in Scotland, this novel (which covers the disappearances of 3 people during the time of the miner's strike in 1984) is obviously in a setting & subject matter that she cares about. It is this passion & her ability to teach her reader something about what is for many an obscure piece of history while never ever sacrificing her narrative thread is truly admirable.The mystery here is deep with enough twists & turns to keep you wondering & reading. Wonderful book - highly recommended
Unkletom on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I was initially drawn to the premise of a missing persons case where the person isn't reported missing until more than 20 years after he disappeared. How could that be? As it turns out, a miner who disappeared during a tumultuous strike in 1984 was assumed to have gone south with several other `blackleg miners' to work as a scab. In such circumstances his absence was considered good riddance and nobody tried to find him. But now, years later, his grandson is ill and needs a transplant so his daughter sets out to find her dad only to find that her dad never went with the blacklegs and that nobody had seen him since. Is there any hope of finding him with a trail this cold? Is there any chance he may be alive? At the same time she is drawn into another cold case, one of a kidnapping gone horribly wrong. Are the cases connected? Can the kidnapped child still be alive? As I read A Darker Domain I got the impression that this book was much more personal to the author the other books of hers that I have read. I felt that she saw her story through the eyes of her protagonist, Detective Inspector Karen Pirie. As I learned later, McDermid did grow up in the coal towns she writes about and her father and grandfather were both miners. As there is far more than just fiction here, the reader can't help but get emotionally involved in the story and its outcome.Perhaps this intimacy with the setting is partially responsible for my one minor complaint. She discusses the strike and bandies about miners slang in such a way that one thinks she expects the whole world to know who Scargill was or what a `pit bing' is. It doesn't distract from the story but I can't help feeling that know would have given me a deeper understanding of the situation. A Darker Domain is an excellent example of the quality detective fiction coming out of Scotland these days and it's a far cry from Miss Marple. Thank God for that as I've never been one for tea and knitting.
reannon on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A stand-alone novel by Val McDermid. A young woman comes to the cold case squad in Fife, Scotland, to report her father has been missing for twenty-two years. She and her mother believed he had turned scab during the 1984 national miners strike, and they wanted nothing more to do with him for turning traitor to the miners. Now the young woman's son is ill and needs help from a close relative, and the father may be her last chance. But he isn't where he ought to be if he had turned scab.In a parallel plot, new evidence turns up in a kidnapping case from Fife in 1985. Heiress Cat Grant and her son went missing, and at the ransom handover Cat was killed and her son was never found.McDermid is a highly-respected author and this book just reinforces her reputation. In a note before the book, she talks about the experiences of the strike by her relatives, and it is clear that she wants to tell the story of the strike, which she does well. But the plot is more than that , and is well done. The characterization is excellent, especially Karen Pirie and her partner Phil Parhatka, good enough that one hopes McDermid will use them again.Good read.
MmeRose on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Two cold cases, believable characters and fascinating background...this woman can write! She draws you into the world she's created and makes you care!For all those lamenting that this is not another Tony Hill - McDermid is so much more than just one series! She is a writer who can't be limited to just one character. Her other series and her stand alones are worth reading. I wish her a very, very long career!
cathyskye on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
First Line: The voice is soft, like the darkness that encloses them.It's another day in Fife, Scotland, and Detective Inspector Karen Pirie--newly appointed head of the Cold Case Review Team-- needs something to sink her teeth into. When a woman comes in to report her father as missing (he was last seen way back in 1984) and gives a few more details, Pirie decides to look into it. It has all the markings of a long shot, and a long shot is something she can't resist.She and her partner, Detective Sergeant Phil Parhatka, have barely begun to look for Mick Prentice when Pirie's superior officer has her drop everything and rush to the estate of Sir Broderick Maclennan Grant. Back in 1985, the mogul's daughter and grandson were kidnapped. A botched ransom drop left his daughter, Catriona, dead and his grandson, Adam, in the hands of the kidnappers never to be heard from again. New information has come to light in the Maclennan case, and now Pirie has two cold cases to solve, for she's not about to stop looking for Mick Prentice.McDermid has been one of my favorite mystery writers since I read A Place of Execution. This book did not disappoint. Pirie and her partner work very well together, and I'd love to see more books centered around these two. As the information on both cases is teased loose, it's told in a series of flashbacks, which let me become familiar with the characters' voices and behavior without confusing the storyline.A Darker Domain also brought home a little known (to me) period of British history-- of Margaret Thatcher, the unions, the coal miners and the strikes. Of men and families starving, the betrayal of the unions, and the excessive force used by the police. McDermid, whose own family struggled to survive these times, didn't present all this information in one vast history lesson, but through the lives and voices of her characters.Although both cold cases came together in such a way that strained credulity a bit, I still enjoyed this story and especially the character of Karen Pirie. I do hope I'll see more of her.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If you like McDermid’s darker series, this might leave you disappointed. I found the story interesting and twisty but not with the dark overtones of many of her other books. I also found the way POV and time was handled clever. Definitively a good read.
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Igave it 3 because of the way it ended. It was like being dropped of the edge of a cliff......... Adrupt.