Cover Image: Still Life

Still Life

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Member Reviews

Thank you for loaning me a copy of another smashing book by Val McDermid and the Cold Case Team led by DCI Karen Pirie.
A dead body is pulled from the sea and the person was a suspect in his brother’s disappearance a decade before.  Karen is under intense pressure from her superior to sort it out in a hurry as it could
involve the Conservative Government.  Truth be damned!
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This was my first Karen Pirie novel, though I'm a long time fan of Val McDermid and her Tony Hill series. Even though this is the sixth book in the series I had no trouble jumping in here, although I definitely want to pick up the rest of the series now - I'm hooked. 

As with all her books, the characterization and setting is on point. These don't feel like characters in some fake place. They are real, believable people, and the plot is intense, suspenseful, and well tied up at the end. Definitely recommended -- you can always depend on Val McDermid to deliver. 

Thanks to Grove Atlantic/Atlantic Monthly Press and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of Still Life in return for my honest opinion.
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This is the sixth book in the DCI Karen Pirie police series by Val McDermid, but my first. I had no trouble following this as a stand alone, although references to the past have made me want to start at the beginning of this series. I have read other books by McDermid and she is a polished writer of the police procedural. You feel you are in good hands and there is a solid air of realism in all her stories.

DCI Pirie is in charge of cold cases and when a body, long dead, is found in the garage of a woman who just died, the search is on. She is aided by her trainee Jason Murray, well intentioned but still has a lot to learn. Then Pirie is assigned to another case, a man who had fled to France years ago is found dead in the Firth of Forth.  Daisy Mortimer from the crime squad, a very sharp young detective, aids Pirie in this case. 

What I love about McDermid's books is the sense of "being there". All her characters and situations feel very true to what a Scottish policeman would encounter. I also love the setting, although she doesn't spend a lot of time talking about it. I actually met Ms. McDermid once at an author's event in Bali, and she was surprisingly hilarious for one who writes about the dark side of life. There is just enough drama going on in the characters' lives to keep you involved, but the emphasis is always on the story. Her crime stories are always interestingly plotted with lots of turns and twists, and neatly tied up in the end.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading "Still Life" and thank NetGalley, the publisher Grove Atlantic, and the author, Val McDermid, for the opportunity to read this book. I rate it 4.5 stars.
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This is a brilliant read.
Wonderful well written plot and story line that had me engaged from the start.
Love the well fleshed out characters and found them believable.
Great suspense and found myself second guessing every thought I had continuously.
Can't wait to read what the author brings out next.
Recommend reading.

I was provided an ARC from NetGalley and the publisher.  This is my own honest voluntary review.
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“Still Life” is book six in Val McDermid’s series featuring Detective Chief Inspector Karen Pirie of Scotland’s Historic Cases Unit. Those who have not read the previous books can jump right in without any problem because all characters are introduced, and previous relationships are easily folded into the current scenario.
The drama opens on a chilly February morning. Billy Watson guides the 23-foot creel boat out into the chilly waters of the Firth of Forth. Unfortunately the first catch of the day is a drowned man. In another scenario, a woman is cleaning out the house of her recently diseased sister when she finds a camper van in the garage that definitely didn’t belong to her sister. Inside the van she discovers skeletonized human remains. These events seem to be discrete and unrelated but the two cases become intricately intertwined.  Detective Sergeant Daisy Mortimer of  the Fife-based crime squad and Detective Chief Inspector Karen Pirie become entangled in complicated scenarios involving counterfeit identities, forged art, and Paris jazz music. 

The plot is focused, intense and imaginative. The investigation proceeds in a careful, systematic way with a slow accumulation of facts, and then unexpectedly takes readers somewhere else. McDermid’s word selection and the cadence of conversations reflect nature of the setting and the complexity of the people. Characters drive the plot, and readers get to know them well. They have depth, purpose, and come complete with nicknames such as “the dog biscuit.” DCI Pirie advances the narrative as she struggles not only with a difficult case, but also with her personal life that is a hot mess. She is developing a serious relationship with a “new” man in her life, but then then the killer of the previous “love of her life” is released from prison. 

In echoes of things that actually happen, McDermid gives a nod to Covid with a passing mention of a virus popping up in China and the need to possibly stock up on toilet paper and hand sanitizer. (We know how that went downhill fast!) I received a review copy of “Still Life” from Val McDermid and Atlantic Monthly Press. It is a “page turner” right from the start.
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Val McDermid is a very consistent writer. She provides much detail of the legal and police procedures that are important in her series and stand alone novels. Here, in “Still Life,” we find Karen Pirie again in her historical crimes unit. This time she is involved after the discovery of skeletonized remains in an old camper van in the garage of a woman who recently died in an accident. Strange case demanding a multi-pronged approach. Here is the combination of modern policing with old fashioned leg work.

As this first case is moving along, Pirie is “commandeered” into another investigation. A new murder has been linked to an historical case, the disappearance of a low level Scottish official several years before. Working both cases reveals modern police methods, working with various legal departments, other police jurisdictions (officially and legally), and the world of forensics. I enjoy this level of detail and the honesty of what can and cannot be done in the real world.

There is also a side story on Karen’s relationship with the man she met in the last book in the series and her difficulty in moving on from her lost love.

Again, a recommended book from McDermid’s long list.

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest review.
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I always look forward to new books by Val McDermid however I found this one quite disappointing.  The plot was quite thin and the solution to one of the two cases fairly obvious whilst the other only has two possible solutions.  Fans of McDermid will still want to read it but new readers should start elsewhere..
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This is the first book of the Karen Pirie series for me.

I usually enjoy books with a female detective lead, but this one was a ‘did not finish.’

The plot line sounded interesting, a body is picked up some fishermen and it turns out to belong to someone who was in the Foreign Legion and had changed their name while there. Then there is an accident victim, a successful  tax accountant who was run down while cycling and two cold cases, a body found in a caravan parked in the garage of the accident victim and  a third person, a man, missing man for ten years.

However the primary character, Detective Chief Inspector Karen Pirie was frankly, irritating – she is a mean-spirited, temperamental bully – she bullies her current lover, Hamish and her assistant Jason. Hamish did something she didn’t like and we spend one and a half chapters of her ‘fuming’ with anger at him.

Poor Jason has to take vacuum mugs in his backpack to bring her coffee, though ‘She wasn’t taking advantage of him, she always was always easier to work with when caffeinated.’ She orders him to run a license plate for her, though it was against the department policies to do this for personal reasons and she then lies by telling him that it was attached to a case. 

She can’t seem to control her emotions – she seems to permanently vacillate between being irritated and angry.
She follows a criminal (who has served their time) to a bar to harass them, which I think might be illegal and most certainly would have gotten her in trouble with her superiors.

Her assistant, Detective Sergeant Daisy Mortimer was a weird mix of  preening and insecure – making asides such ‘Now was her time to shine’ and ‘It was her moment. Daisy stood up to make sure everyone could see her.’

These women were not sympathetic characters and I lost interest in them after a few chapters. 

Thanks to NetGallery for the opportunity to review this book.
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Great! Another gripping novel by Val Mc Dermid. The book had well crafted characters and excellent descriptions.. I would totally recommend this book and it has inspired me to re-read the other Val McDermid books on my bookshelf.
Thank you Grove Atlantic and Netgalley for the opportunity to give my unbiased opinion.
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Another fantastic read from Val.  Still life had me gripped from the start.  I couldn't put it down and raced through it.  Diverse and gripping.  4 stars
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The character of Karen Pirie is up there with the best and Still Life is Val McDermod at her best.
Enjoyable as expected from start to finish and another of those book you just want to keep reading. 
Certainly look forward to the next one.
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This is the first Karen Pirie  novel I have read , but this doesn’t detract from this book, there is enough back story to be able to know more about the character Karen Pirie and enjoy the book.
The story starts with a body being found by lobster fisherman , and the body is related to a cold case , the cold case team become involved and DCI Karen Piries is the lead detective.

The book follows two cold cases and the expert writing of Val McDermid flows easily between the two without confusion. The writing led me to immerse myself in every page it was a joy to read. 
The story involves some complex issues but they are explained in a straightforward way, the plot is intriguing and there are twists and turns to enjoy along the way. The story held me throughout and I found the characters genuine and affable . The mention of the forthcoming Covid pandemic makes the story even more realistic and tangible  and  I thought this was an intuitive touch.

A compelling , intriguing police procedural!
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Still Life begins with a corpse being pulled out of the Firth of Forth by a group of lobster fishermen. Definitely not your typical catch of the day. The body belongs to a man who was a suspect in his brother’s disappearance and probable murder over a decade ago, but he did a runner when the cops started to close in. Since that time, he has moved to France, served in the foreign legion, joined a jazz band, and got himself killed, all in that order. The last one being arguably the most questionable choice.

This is the sixth book in the Detective Pirie series, penned by the award-winning Val McDermid, a long-time noble among crime fiction royalty. I’m ashamed to admit that I hadn’t read books 1-5, but I intend to rectify that soon. It’s a testament to the author’s skill that I could come so late to the Detective Pirie game and not find one confusing play.

McDermid is a master at both language and plot, effortlessly switching between two story lines. Her characters are authentic, multi-layered, and the atmosphere quintessentially Scottish. I was captured from the very beginning, worse than a lobster netted in the Forth. Highly recommended.

For a full review go to

Many thanks to Negalley and the publisher for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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If Ian Rankin is the Da of contemporary Scottish detective fiction, there can be little doubt that Val McDermid is the Ma. A long time ago, shortly after its publication I read The Mermaids Singing, although that very dark novel made a deep impression, I didn't follow up, I don't think I found the protagonists particularly congenial. 

This book is obviously also part of a series but I had no issues here with the protagonists. In fact, they were highly enjoyable, I found their insouciance towards a certain senior officer particularly engaging. The plots (there are actually two for the price of one), although they had their "out there" moments, were intriguing and kept me turning the pages. Throw in some very sharp dialogue and the occasional Scottishism, pertinent observations about contemporary British politics and the hint of an encroaching plague and this was for me a very satisfactory novel with a contemporary feel.
I will definitely be seeking to read more in this series.

Thanks as always to NetGalley for allowing me to read a copy of the ARC.
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The sixth installment in the Inspector Karen Pirie series of Scottish Historic Crimes Unit investigations.  With a body washed ashore and a skeleton discovered in a camper van hidden in a garage kicks off this typically police procedural from Val McDermid. Painstakingly following the leads and assuming nothing until proven, Karen Pirie and her team attempt to solve the mystery. A solid, enjoyable crime story but disappointingly it was somewhat apparent where the clues led. Interestingly, there were two references to Covid which locates the story in the current day. Overall a three and half star rating.
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Still Life is an engaging read with good characterisations and a satisfying plot. Story flows smoothly, and it is balanced well around the ongoing police investigations and everyday life of the main character. This is the first book I read in the series, and I definitely want to read more.
DCI Pirie is a tough cop with a strong personality, not an easy person to work with at the first sight. She is also in a difficult phase of her life, dealing with a personal loss and a new relationship. The story starts with a cold case, but another one with a high-profile comes up soon enough and the reader follows DCI Pirie and her team of two young officers working on two separate investigations in parallel across a few countries. 
Still Life is an intriguing and well-paced narrative, and I liked to read not only about progress of the investigation but also about personal relationships of the characters. This gives the reader a better perspective and somewhat intimate view.
Val McDermid has written this novel during the pandemic, mostly in lock-down. This is an interesting fact considering the characters are almost always on the road, constantly visiting different places and talking to different people. I am curious about the next one.
Thank you to the NetGalley and the publishers for this copy.
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This is the first book I have read in the Karen Pirie series and I throughly enjoyed it. 

The story was interesting and kept me hooked and I especially liked DCI Pirie's character.

I have read all of the Tony Hill books from this author and will now start reading this series. 

Thanks Val McDermid for yet another fabulous series.
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Suspicious suicide, internet gaming, backroom dealings, this is the first i a new policewoman dealing with idiot men and an institutionalized sexism in police work. 
I had to learn an entire new vocabulary about what takes place in the vicious world of social media.
Its a bit complicated but a nice quick mystery that made me feel a bit old and not sorry about it.
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GREAT reading! Totally enjoyed the writing, suspenseful storyline & characterization, especially DCI Karen. RECOMMEND wholly.  Thanks to NetGalley & Grove Atlantic for this complimentary ARC copy in exchange for my honest opinions.
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I'm a sucker for a good mystery series (thanks to my childhood Nancy Drew obsession) and the Karen Pirie series has been added to my list of favorites. McDermid is brilliant at mixing past and present - a necessity when your main character is the head of a cold cases unit. In this book Pirie is working two cases - the more complex one being a current case that seems to have ties to an unsolved case from the past. Both cases are well written, with some surprises in each. And McDermid managed to weave in the current pandemic - the first fiction I've read that did this. I cringed a bit when I first saw that, but she did a nice job of nailing the feelings early in lockdown - what do I do and how/where do I do it? I like Karen Pirie more with every book - she feels very much like a "real" woman, confident in her professional life, less so in her personal life. She's smart and tenacious and complex. Her supporting characters are also good, and it's interesting to watch their growth (or lack thereof, in some instances). This is a series I highly recommend, and I do recommend reading it in order. (Note that the first in the series is very much an introduction of Pirie, and she doesn't actually appear until fairly late in that book.) Each book could stand alone, but you'd have a couple of serious spoilers if you don't read in order. Thanks to Netgalley and Grove Atlantic for providing a copy for an unbiased review.
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