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A Place of Execution (original 1999; edition 2001)
by Val McDermid
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0312979533, Mass Market Paperback)Penzler Pick, August 2000: Val McDermid, better known in England than in the U.S., is a well respected writer of crime fiction. Her three ongoing mystery series feature red-haired PI Kate Brannigan; Lindsay Gordon, a lesbian socialist journalist, and Tony Hill and Carol Jordan, clinical psychologist and detective inspector respectively. A Place of Execution is McDermid's first stand-alone mystery, and with it, she redefines the term "village mystery."
It is 1963, the Beatles are becoming wildly popular in England, and the Swinging Sixties are about to change the post-war Western world. But in the village of Scardale in the Peaks District of Derbyshire, a desolate area beloved of hikers and climbers, nothing has changed for hundreds of years. The village has remained small and insular--most villagers are related, and the most common second names are Carter and Lomas. When Alison Carter, aged 13, disappears while walking her dog, the case is given to a young detective inspector named George Bennett. As Bennett gets to know the families in the village and their concerns, he realizes that this case is not as simple as it first seems. The villagers seem to be closing ranks, and Bennett suspects they may be protecting one of their own. Central to his investigation are Alison's mother and her husband. When Ruth Carter remarried, she chose Philip Hawkin, an outsider who is now the current squire of the village. As Alison's stepfather, he raises all kinds of red flags for Bennett. But so does Alison's close relationship with her cousin Charlie who, too conveniently, it seems, finds a vital clue.
All this is complicated by the fact that the police and the villagers cannot find Alison's body; there are also other disappearances in the area which may or may not be connected. To reveal more about this riveting mystery would be to give too much away. McDermid takes the reader through a maze of conflicting facts and theories, and when Bennett, with the help of local police, solves the case, the real story is only just beginning--especially for Bennett, who will question not only his own part in solving this case, but ultimately the profession he has chosen. --Otto Penzler
(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:44:59 -0400)
Winter 1963: two children have disappeared in Manchester; the murderous careers of Myra Hindley and Ian Brady have begun. On a freezing day in December, another child goes missing: 13-year-old Alison Carter vanishes from the isolated Derbyshire hamlet of Scardale. For the young George Bennett it is the beginning of his most difficult and harrowing case: a murder with no body, an investigation with more dead ends and closed faces than he'd have found in the inner city; an outcome that reverberates down the years. Decades later he tells his story to journalist Catherine Heathcote, but just when her book is poised for publication, Bennett tries to pull the plug. He has new information that he will not divulge, and that threatens the very foundation of his existence. Catherine is forced to reinvestigate the past, with results that turn the world upside down. A taut psychological thriller that explores, exposes and explodes the border between reality and illusion in a multilayered narrative that turns expectations on their head and reminds us that what we know is what we do not know...
(summary from another edition)
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