As the world got swept off its feet with the booming Scandinavian crime novel and TV, I did, too. Not that I’ve seen/read too many of their creations, but I was so impressed with “The Millenium” trilogy and enjoyed the TV show “The Bridge” (“Broen”), that I couldn’t help but continue exploring in this direction. So, picking up on Stieg Larsson’s main character’s hint that Val McDermid’s books are exciting, I randomly chose this Scottish novelist’s awarded crime novel, “A Place of Execution.”
Set in a non-existent but very realistic small English town of the sixties’, Scardale – “a self-contained, insular community that distrusts the outside world” – the novel revolves around a mystery of the disappearance of a thirteen-year old Alison Carter. She’s last seen on a Wednesday, when she went outside after school to walk her dog. After not returning for a few hours, her mother starts panicking, though her husband is sure she’s only playing a prank on them. That’s when George Bennett, a young promising detective, is introduced into the novel and from then on we follow him collecting clues and being tormented by the most bizarre case he could have imagined: no body, no major discoveries for a few months, and then finally a series of shocking clues that all too clearly show that the girl has been brutally raped and murdered. One person is sent to hang, but the case keeps haunting many of those involved for the rest of their lives. And that’s only half of the novel.
Though the plot kept me going, I was a bit disappointed with the book. The resolution in the end didn’t come as a surprise at all. It is too obvious what actually happened, except one gruesome detail that proved to be a bit over the top and unrealistic. Also, the reason behind old-fashioned writing eluded me. If it was meant to get us into the mood of the sixties in an isolated valley, fine, but to me it felt more like an inability of the writer, than a carefully and purposefully constructed language.
If I were you, instead of reading “A Place of Execution” I’d rather watch the English show “Broadchurch” – now THAT’s a good crime story.