The Last Temptation
by Val McDermid
Thursday, February 14, 2002
Short version: just as good as I’d hoped it would be.
I was disappointed in McDermid’s last standalone book and so I was really worried that this one was going to miss the mark for me as well. This is the third story to feature Carol Jordan and Tony Hill (the previous two books were The Mermaid’s Singing and The Wire in the Blood). I read both of the earlier books a while ago now and loved them both. There were plenty of elements in this book that could have made it a dreadful experience but I got involved with the characters and really liked the book.
This book revolves primarily around Jordan as she is given an undercover operation that involves living in Berlin and working with a big time trafficker of both drugs and people. The new setting brings in a lot of new European characters including a pair of lesbian detectives from Berlin and the Netherlands who know each other primarily through instant messaging. I thought these two characters were very realistically drawn and can only hope that police forces throughout Europe are populated by their sisters. The world would be a better place if that were so.
Jordan also becomes involved in helping out with a serial killing investigation and this is where psychological profiler Tony Hill is drawn into the story.
McDermid puts her characters through a lot and I don’t know how many books this series can go on for because they barely get out of this book alive and this isn’t the first time this has happened. This is one of the things that could have wrecked the book for me but I went with the flow and got drawn into the suspense.
I hear that a TV series is being made based on these books and I’m in two minds about it. I’m worried that they’ll wreck the books by casting people who are nothing like the characters in my head and by abridging stories and cutting out the goriest bits. But I also think greater readership for McDermid is a good thing and though she’s one of the stars of the crime writing scene I don’t think she’s well enough known to the general public yet.
A couple of other comments: At the beginning of this book there’s a lot of stuff that refers back to the case in the previous book that I think would wreck the suspense of that book if you read the series out of order so don’t read this book first! And if you have read the previous books I think this one is lacking the extra gory bits that featured in those - I could read all of this one with my eyes open ;-)
In summary, this was a very enjoyable episode in this series with some excellent settings along the rivers of Europe and some great characters and I thought the plot worked pretty well (though there were moments when I thought some rather predictable things were being foreshadowed, but these didn’t come to pass). I hope McDermid gives us another Lindsay Gordon or Kate Brannigan book next though!