In Association with

Author of the Month

Name: V. L. McDermid

First book: Report for Murder

Most Recent Book: Stranded


This is a collection of Val McDermid’s short stories that spans across a range of very different themes. The stories range from revenge to lost love in St. Petersburg. They include a hold-up in a bingo hall, murder in a rambling mansion and a barrister’s sexual awakening after gaining a client’s freedom!



Some of these stories include one of Val McDermid’s favourite characters in the guise of Kate Brannigan while others are stand-alone. Some are crime orientated, while others make us feel we are watching somebody’s life through a window. One of the stories that really stood out for me was The Wagon Mound, which illustrates a woman’s guilt when her little stab at revenge has terrible consequences. Other wonderful crime stories are A Wife in A Million, A Traditional Christmas, Sneeze for Danger and Heartburn. In Metamorphosis and The Consolation Blonde, McDermid shows her hand only in the last few sentences. They literally take your breath away at their audacity and they work so wonderfully well!

There are some stories in the collection that do not have a crime element. These stand-out on their own merit. The first story in the collection tells the story of a painful love affair. The Road and the Miles to Dundee, which has never been published before, is a particular tearjerker. My personal favourite in the collection was Homecoming. This shows a very poignant moment in a woman’s life as memories of her past catch up in the present. It is simply beautifully written.

There are also moments of comedy with The Girl Who Killed Santa Claus and another favourite, Four Calling Birds, is both original and brilliantly written. I could see it working well as a television play.

There really is something for everyone in this gem of a collection. Short stories are not everyone’s cup of tea, but I promise you this is a wonderful book that will sate your appetite until Val return’s with her next full-length novel, The Last Tattoo!

Val McDermid is one of the UK’s main champions of the short story form. Try reading the monthly stories on

Reviewed by C.S.

CrimeSquad Rating



1.) Name:
Val McDermid

2.) First book:
Report for Murder

3.) Most recent book:

4.) How would you describe your books?
With great difficulty. I write in a wide range of styles, from dark psychological thrillers to wisecracking private eye novels. I write series and standalones. What unites them, I suppose, is a love for storytelling.

5.) What is your favourite crime read of all time?
Reginald Hill’s On Beulah Height

6.) Would you describe yourself as a Crime fan and if so, which authors do you most admire and why?
For me, the classic crime novel is always a three-legged stool – character, story and sense of place. So the writers I admire most are those who consistently manage that balancing act. Writers such as Reginald Hill, Ruth Rendell, Sara Paretsky, Denise Mina, Don Winslow, John Straley, James Sallis, James Lee Burke, Andrew Taylor, Jim Kelly… I could go on for some time!

7.) Without giving away the plot, which book included your favourite plot twist of all time?
Agatha Christie’s The Murder of Roger Ackroyd springs to mind, but I’m sure there are others just as striking.

8.) Which camp do you fall in? Agatha Christie or Dorothy L. Sayers? Why?
If I have to choose between them, I’d go for Christie. She wasn’t great on character or sense of place, but nobody ever plotted better. I find Sayers snobbish, self-conscious and over-written. As for Peter Wimsey – as my grandmother would have said, ‘That man has a face you’d never tire of slapping.’

9.) Who, in your eyes, is pushing the boundaries of crime fiction today – and why?
It depends what you mean by pushing the boundaries. There are writers doing extraordinarily experimental things, like Jim Lusby with his novel Serial. Then there are writers like Denise Mina who are writing novels that happen to have crime at their heart but which are essentially windows on the world. And then there are those who use the crime novel to write about the marginalised and the alienated who have no voice elsewhere, writers like Karline Smith and Walter Mosley. That’s the beauty of the genre right now – it can speak for any of us and for all of us.

10.) What is your favourite movie adaptation of a crime novel?
LA Confidential

11.) What do you think of ITV’s adaptation of Wire in the Blood? Are you surprised by its phenomenal success around the globe?
I think Coastal Productions, who make Wire in the Blood, have done a terrific job. They have kept faith with the ambience of the books in the scripts not based on my books. The standard of acting, scriptwriting and production have been uniformly high so no, I’m not surprised at their success. They’re so much better than the vast majority of what appears on our screens.

12.) When you write about Tony Hill and Carol Jordan, do you now see Robson Green and Hermione Norris in your mind?
Robson is very close physically to my own Tony Hill, so yes, when I write Tony, I now see Robson in my head. Hermione, however, although she has done a terrific job as Carol, is far enough removed from the Carol in my head not to have taken over in the same way. I still see my Carol in my mind’s eye!

13.) I believe they are adapting A Place of Execution for television. How is it progressing and when is it likely to be on our screens?
We are still in the very early stages of development. We are at the mercy of TV executives, so who knows when it will finally be made?

14.) Where do you see Crime fiction going next?
Wherever the writers want to take it. There are no limits.