cover image Past Lying: A Karen Pirie Novel

Past Lying: A Karen Pirie Novel

Val McDermid. Atlantic Monthly, $27 (464p) ISBN 978-0-8021-6149-9

The riveting seventh installment in McDermid’s Karen Pirie series (after 2020’s Still Life) sees the Edinburgh DCI parsing a potentially deadly literary rivalry at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic. As head of Scotland’s Historic Cases Unit, Karen has spent the bulk of her time in lockdown researching details on a stack of unsolved crimes. An especially intriguing one lands on her desk courtesy of a researcher at the National Library, who’s unearthed new evidence about the year-old disappearance of Lara Hardie, a novice crime writer who idolized bestseller Jake Stein. Stein, whose career hit the skids after he was accused of sexual assault at a book launch before the pandemic, has recently died of cancer, and a subsequent perusal of his belongings has turned up a manuscript that reads like a chilling roman à clef of Hardie’s murder. In it, Stein appears to admit to strangling Hardie and planning to frame his personal and professional rival, Ross McEwan. More digging reveals that McEwan has been carrying on an affair with Stein’s wife, Rosalind, so Karen and her team set out to determine the level of Stein’s and McEwan’s involvement in Hardie’s disappearance. McDermid keeps the twists coming hard and fast, and she bolsters them with sharp observations about the toll of Covid on the public psyche. This page-turner grips from the outset and doesn’t let go. Agent: Lizzy Kremer, David Higham Assoc. (Nov.)