A Place Of Execution - Val McDermid My re-read of this novel confirmed that it deserves the four stars I originally gave it. I first read A Place of Execution when it was initially published in 1999. As I don't generally re-read crime fiction novels (I make an exception for the novels of Dorothy L Sayers!), I haven't re-visited it since. The advantage in re-reading the novel after such a long break is that I had forgotten a lot of details of the plot, so it almost felt like a first time read.

There is no doubt that this is one of Val McDermid's strongest works. She evokes 1960s England in general and Derbyshire in particular most convincingly. This is achieved partly through details of behaviour (for example, pretty much every character smokes!) and descriptions of items such as clothing and motor vehicles. It is also achieved through the juxtaposition of the central mystery in the novel - the disappearance and presumed murder of a young girl in a Derbyshire village - with details of the real life disappearances of several children later known to be victims of serial killers Ian Brady and Myra Hindley. (They committed the so-called Moors Murders).

The plotting is strong and although it relies on some fairly major coincidences, that aspect of the novel doesn't feel forced. The characters are believable and memorable. There are also some things to think about once the reading is over: secrets and lies, truth and justice, the operation of the criminal justice system. Recommended for fans of contemporary crime fiction. However, this not a "cozy". It deals with some disturbing issues - specifically child abuse - in a frank manner.