Skip to main content

How the Dead Speak: A Tony Hill and Carol Jordan Novel

Review

How the Dead Speak: A Tony Hill and Carol Jordan Novel

The Tony Hill and Carol Jordan novels are arguably Val McDermid’s most popular and enduring set of works. She juggles three other series, stand-alone efforts, occasional short stories and intermittent nonfiction titles --- all of great value --- but it is Tony Hill and Carol Jordan who seem to have struck a chord with readers. The newly published HOW THE DEAD SPEAK is a transitional entry in the series and perhaps McDermid’s most complex book to date.

The narrative juggles multiple plot chainsaws. It begins approximately six months after the game-changing events set forth in 2017’s INSIDIOUS INTENT. Tony, a psychological profiler who often works with the police, is incarcerated after being found guilty of murder. He finds his status in prison to be a potentially dangerous one due to his education and background. He slowly and carefully starts to carve a niche for himself, which will bring his talents and abilities to bear for the benefit of his fellow inmates. He hopes that the fruits of his intentions will be received in the spirit in which they are made.

"There quite simply isn’t a good place to stop reading the book until its satisfying conclusion, which pulls off the neat trick of resolving everything on a potential up note while leaving readers waiting impatiently for the next installment."

We then shift over to Carol, who is no longer a police inspector and is dealing with the after-effects of post-traumatic stress disorder. When she finds conventional medicine wanting, she turns to alternative treatment and begins making progress. She desperately wants this, since Tony has indicated that he does not wish to be in contact with her until she has resolved her issues.

Carol is also somewhat reluctantly drawn into two investigations. One centers on an alliance with a group of legal and forensic experts who are looking into instances where miscarriages of justice may have occurred. The other indirectly concerns Tony and results in Carol possibly being blackmailed into finding the mastermind behind a Ponzi scheme who has managed to evade justice.

Meanwhile, DI Paula McIntyre is dealing with the new head of ReMIT, the investigative unit that Carol was instrumental in creating and guiding. The team is tasked with investigating the discovery of dozens of graves on the grounds of a former Catholic orphanage. The buried skeletons all belong to young girls. The forensics involved are of utmost importance, given that the nuns who ran the orphanage were rumored to employ brutal methods.

The investigation takes on a new dimension, though, when a second burial site is discovered near the first. These graves are much more recent, appear to have been deliberately concealed, and contain the bodies of young men. The evidence points in several directions and might demonstrate an unjust conviction of murder involving the case on which Carol is informally working. A rough justice of sorts is ultimately obtained on one front, and Carol may find herself in a different kind of career. And Tony? His fate remains to be seen.

HOW THE DEAD SPEAK clips right along. McDermid’s numerous plotlines are easily distinguishable from each other, and when they intersect (as we know they must do), their crossing is neither strained nor obvious. There quite simply isn’t a good place to stop reading the book until its satisfying conclusion, which pulls off the neat trick of resolving everything on a potential up note while leaving readers waiting impatiently for the next installment.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on December 20, 2019

How the Dead Speak: A Tony Hill and Carol Jordan Novel
by Val McDermid

  • Publication Date: December 3, 2019
  • Genres: Fiction, Mystery, Suspense, Thriller
  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Atlantic Monthly Press
  • ISBN-10: 0802147615
  • ISBN-13: 9780802147615