cover image Conferences Are Murder

Conferences Are Murder

Val McDermid, Val McDemud. Spinsters Ink Books, $12 (264pp) ISBN 978-1-883523-30-5

In 1984, after the traumatizing death of her closest friend, amateur sleuth and former reporter Lindsay Gordon left England for California. Nine years later, she finds herself back in her homeland, gathering data for her doctoral thesis. At a journalists' union conference in Sheffield, Lindsay reluctantly reenters the bullying, back-stabbing world of union politics. Shortly after she quarrels with the controversial, homophobic union boss Tom Jack, he tumbles out of her hotel room window, and the anonymous editor of the conference newspaper names Lindsay the murderer. To save her skin, Lindsay and her American girlfriend, Sophie, must unravel intricate union politics to catch the killer, who may have ties to the suspicious death that sparked Lindsay's departure years before. McDermid's (Report for a Murder, etc.) confusing plot is filled with obtuse union rhetoric, and her characters lack the quirks and complexities necessary to elevate them above stereotype. The ending provides a good surprise, but the killer's implausible motive ruins the novel's credibility. This is an unusually weak showing by McDermid, whose The Mermaids Singing won Britain's Golden Dagger for Best Crime Novel of 1995. (Apr.)