Beneath the Bleeding is another brilliant and thrilling police procedural murder mystery from Val McDermid featuring psychologist Dr. Tony Hill and police detective Carol Jordan set in Northern England. This book is the 5th in this series at the core of which is the relationship between Carol and Tony. They have never been lovers but they are almost certainly in love with each other; however, circumstances make it unlikely they will ever “go there.” Regardless, the two work well together and have been successful in the past catching murders (especially serial killers). Tony works as a profiler for the Bradfield Police Department where Carol is a DCI (Detective Chief Inspector).
In Beneath the Bleeding Tony is (again) physically impaired, this time in the very first scene is attacked by a deranged man with an axe and spends most of the plot in a hospital bed or strenuously moving about on crutches. Meanwhile, the first body discovered is that of a popular young star footballer who has been poisoned by ricin. While the BPD is trying to solve this high-profile case they are rattled and sidetracked by an extravagant act of mass murder which leads to a counter terrorism center (CTC) team descending on Bradfield to take over the investigation, brusquely displacing BPD in the process.
Another poisoning death that coincided with the alleged terrorist event and Tony’s theory about the poisoner’s motives that Carol and others had previously found ludicrous starts to gain traction. He also participates in Carol’s mutinous investigation of the alleged suicide bomber. An effective feature of McDermid’s books is that she often depicts the acts of the perpetrator from their perspective, so the reader has a (somewhat skewed) view of their motives while the suspense builds as we wonder if, when and how the police will be able to suss out.
We learn more about Tony in this book, being introduced to his mother, who is simply a horrifying individual and we get some important background on Tony’s abusive upbringing that may explain his current psychological tics.
Overall, Beneath the Bleeding is another very strong entry in the Hill/Jordan series. There is further development of the secondary characters in this book which engages the reader by strengthening our interest in and involvement with them. One caveat I would have with this book is that Tony plays an outsized role in the resolution of both mysteries. Also, I was unhappy that the motivation of one of the killers is depicted in a way that is clearly rooted in homophobia (and HIV stigma); this was quite unexpected from a book written by an openly lesbian author.
Title: Beneath the Bleeding.
Author: Val McDermid.
Paperback: 484 pages.
Date Published: September 1, 2009.
Date Read: April 1, 2019.
GOODREADS RATING: ★★★★★ (5.0/5.0).
OVERALL GRADE: A/A- (3.83/4.0).