09 October 2010

The Mermaids Singing/The Wire in the Blood

One of my favorite television channels is BBC America.

I haven't watched it in years because I refuse to pay extortionate fees for hundreds of channels I don't watch just to get two that I do (the other is Ovation - does it exist anymore?).  Thank god for Netflix because I can now catch up on many of the television shows I got started on and never finished when I ditched my cable package. 

One of those shows was Wire in the Blood - a crime drama about an academic crimial psychologist/profiler named Tony Hill and Detective Chief Inspector Carol Jordan set in the fictional town of Bradfield (which I guess was supposed to be about three hours or so north of London near Yorkshire).  The series is based on a series of crime novels by Val McDermid but I never got around to picking any of them up.  A recent Netflix Instant-inspired Wire in the Blood binge combined with the ease of buying a book with my NOOK caused me to read the first two Tony Hill/Carol Jordan novels.  Incidentally, the first two books provide the basis for the first two episodes of the television show's first season:  The Mermaids Singing and The Wire in the Blood.

The Mermaids Singing introduces Tony and Carol amid the mess of a serial killer who is causing quite a scene (and turns out to nearly be more than Tony or Carol bargained for, in the end).  McDermid pulls no punches in showing many members of the police establishment to be not only sexist and bigoted but also too stubbornly working class to appreciate the mental work of profiling that compliments standard police work.  I have no idea how accurate the description is for the mid-nineties (I have a feeling it may not be far from the mark) but it does make for great tension that adds to the urgency of multiple murder inquiries.  McDermid structured the book so that the reader alternates between sections of the killer's diary (presumably recovered at the end of the case) and the crminal investigation.  Tony and Carol are great characters, each with their own problems, but also very much drawn to one another.  Carol also has a great internal voice, revealing how frustrating it must be to have to prove yourself at your job everyday just because you aren't one of the "lads".

The Wire in the Blood picks up approximately a year or so after The Mermaids Singing ended (it was pretty crazy).  Carol has received a promotion and Tony is setting up a national profiling task force.  So they haven't spoken much recently and aren't working together....but, of course, Carol needs Tony to consult on a serial arson investigation and Tony asks Carol to show his trainees how an experienced detective can work with a profiler.  One of the trainees comes up with a potential serial murder investigation as part of a classroom exercise; when Tony hesitates to actively pursue the idea, the trainee goes off on her own and in a crime novel you know where that leads....The narrative of the book then starts to split between Carol's arson investigation in her home territory (and troubles with her team of stubborn DIs) and Tony's team of fledgling profilers fighting an inattentive system and disbelief.  While the situation of two simultaneous investigations is very true-to-life I really felt that the arson plot detracted from the serial murder plot - considering both cases are completely separate it got very confusing after a while.  Still, it was a very compelling book and I enjoyed it very much.  Carol is still a favorite of mine but I liked Tony's growth of a character in The Wire in the Blood.  I finished this one during the Readathon.

There are currently six books in the Tony Hill/Carol Jordan series (The Last Temptation, The Torment of Others, Beneath the Bleeding, and Fever of the Bone make up the rest of the series) and I'd like to read them.  Tony and Carol remind me very much of the main characters in the USA television series Silk Stalkings - Chris and Rita - who have great chemistry and tension but avoid getting into the sack with one another (Chris and Rita only got together when the characters were leaving the show).

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