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A Place of Execution by Paddy Glynn,Val McDermid

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Reviews (7)
I often like Val McDermid's books, but this one not so much. The same tale was told from several different perspectives and time frames - often a good thing, but not in this case. The main characters were well-developed and engaging, but we spent an excessive amount of time with each of them and their thoughts. It was tedious and boring. The "what actually happened" ending was predictable about half-way through and relied completely on an unrealistic coincidence, which just made me roll my eyes. I lightly skimmed the last half of the book (a sentence or two per page) since I wanted to know if my guess concerning the truth of the event was correct - it was.
I first read "A Place of Execution" over ten years ago, as my introduction to Val McDermid's books. I consider it one of my top five favorite crime novels (along with Peter Robinson's "In a Dry Season"). I value a strong sense of place almost as much as compelling characters, and this tale has both in abundance. Rereading it was a treat. The ending is a complete knockout (resist the urge to skip to the end). My highest recommendation!
"You shall be taken in the place from whence you came, and thence to a place of lawful execution, and there you shall be hanged by the neck until you be dead..."

A 13 year old girl has gone missing in a small insular English village - a village like a small medieval fiefdom that does not deal well with outsiders. A body cannot be found, but there is an accumulation of circumstantial evidence. This is a police and judicial procedural novel. It follows the case through investigation, charges and arrest, trial and execution. You would think at that point it is at an end.

But then there is book two, taking place 35 years later. A woman is writing a book about the case. Sometimes when you dig into the past you can dig too deep. Most of us were involved with things as children, or knew about things, that were not discussed outside the small group we associated with. It is sometimes better to let sleeping dogs lie, and take some knowledge to the grave. But something is discovered that requires explanation. So what do you do at that point?

This is a well written story with a lot of detail. It is not a quick read. It will give you a good picture of the English justice system, but there is more than one form of justice. It will also give you a good picture of a tight knit group of people who prefer to handle their own problems in their own way.
Very exciting book. This is the first book I have read by Val McDermid. It takes you right into the English villages and homes. It gives you the feeling of being there. The plot has many twists and turns, and an unexpected outcome. Police Detective George Bennett, who handled the case of the missing, in all probability, murdered, 13 year old girl, let this case so take over his life, that years later, strange new information causes him to have a heart attack that almost kills him. The strange village where the child went missing, blood found, some of the child's clothing found, the desperation to get information, and then the killer is found, but other facts get in the way later. This book is hard to put down.
On C-SPAN, I recently saw an interview with Shelby Foote, the wonderful writer and Civil War expert. He said that he thought rereading books was very helpful in really understanding the story. He said that when first reading a book there was, of course, much emphasis on finding out exactly where the story was going. But when a book was reread, the reader could concentrate on the smaller things and nuances of the writer. When rereading, the reader knows the "big picture" and pays more attention to details.
After hearing that, I happen to come upon my copy of A Place of Execution and decided to reread it. I had initially read it last year and thought it was one of the best books I had ever come across. I thought reading it again would hopefully confirm my feelings about the book. And, according to Mr. Foote, I would find smaller things in the story that I had overlooked in my first reading.
I have just finished my second reading. I can't remember when I have ever been so totally engossed in a story (especially the second time through!). There are so many distractions with daily life that intrude constantly - yet all of a sudden I would look at the clock and realize I had been reading uninterruped for hours.
I find A Place of Execution a totally fascinating read. Val McDermid does a wonderful job of telling the story. The switching of time frames from the present to 35 years ago and then back to the present is done seamlessly. The actual story of the missing 13 year old girl is interesting on its own. After the outcome of the trial, I was so delighted to find that there was still 1/4 of the book left - meaning that there were some wonderful unexpected things left to be heard about the case.
The last 1/4 of the book indeed does really make this book special. There are delicious twists that the story takes that are great. It puts it head and shoulders above most of the many mysteries that I have read. I have read other Val McDermid books and some of them were ok. But none even come close to this masterpiece.
It simply doesn't get any better than this. Val McDermid is one writer I will never give up on (and she provides scant motivation to do so). This standalone book is densely plotted and moves right along, but the reader needs to take the time to keep track of the many and various village and police department members. By the time you go off the precipice that is the ending of this book, you'll be glad you did. In addition to this book, I'd like to also recommend McDermid's Tony Hill series starting with "The Mermaids Singing" and "The Wire in the Blood". "The Last Temptation" wasn't up to par compared to these, but was readable and it left the door open for yet another book in this fine series so it wasn't all bad. But I'd give "A Place of Execution" six stars if I could. Just super.

November 2008 update: Just read this again. Even knowing the ending didn't diminish the story. The pleasure in the beautiful plotting and the clues that are everywhere for us to see (and ignore) made the journey worthwhile all over again.

ISBN: 0753112477

Rating: 4.5/5

Votes: 796

Other Formats: lrf mbr docx rtf

ISBN13: 978-0753112472

Publisher: ISIS Publishing (November 2001)

Language: English

A Place of Execution
Mystery, Thriller & Suspense
Author: Paddy Glynn,Val McDermid
Title: A Place of Execution