Fever of the Bone
Val McDermid
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Buy *Fever of the Bone* by Val McDermid online

Fever of the Bone
Val McDermid
512 pages
September 2010
rated 4 of 5 possible stars

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In Fever of the Bone, DCI Carol Jordon and her team of crack detectives are blindsided by Chief Constable James Blake, the officious new head of the Bradfield Metropolitan Police. Blake, citing cost, has decided to suspend the services of specialist criminal psychologist Tony Hill. Although Carol is certain they neither have Tony’s expertise or his experience, selected police officers from the National Police Faculty will now assume Tony's duties.

Carol is also furious at Blake’s proposal that her department and her hardworking team of officers are going to be "rigorously scrutinized," including the loyal DC Paula McIntyre and ever-dependent Kevin Matthews. To make matters worse, Blake's ultimatum comes at a time when Carol and Tony face various personal struggles - struggles that threaten to derail a friendship based on a complicated history and shared understanding.

It is, however, the violent death of 14-year-old Jennifer Maidment that truly unites Carol and Tony. DI Stuart Patterson and DS Alvin Ambrose of West Mercia Constabulary discover Jennifer’s body lying covered in rotting leaf mold in a remote area just off one of Worcester's motorways. A clear polythene bag shrouds Jennifer's face and hair, and her genitals appear to have been surgically removed.

According to her distraught parents, Jennifer just vanished into thin air somewhere between a bus stop and a shop. There are no forensic traces and not single witness at the crime scene. According to Jennifer's best friend, Claire, she could have been going to meet someone she met on RigMarole, the latest fad in online social networking where she'd "talk, do instant messaging, and texting and stuff."

When sulky, blue-eyed Daniel Morrison is reported missing, Carol, Patterson, and Ambrose are left in the shadows of yet another violent death. Like Jennifer, Daniel had been chatting on Rigmarole a few days before his disappearance. Daniel also came from a similar upper-middle class background, and also like Jennifer, he clearly wanted for nothing. The only clue the police can come up with is that the killer seems to be luring his prey from public access computers.

Tony mulls over everything he’s learned about Jennifer and her killer, concluding that the attack was not sexuality motivated. Still, the killer is planning carefully; he spent weeks grooming Jennifer, setting her up to take his bait. Back in Bradford, Carol’s team trawl through the scattered detritus of deleted computer files, racing against time to fit them together “like a vandalized jigsaw." But in this age of "total surveillance," the killer is able to elude the ever-watching electronic eyes of the police, covering his back and keystrokes with fierce intensity.

McDermid dynamically manipulates these cyber-murders with subplots involving Tony's inheritance and Carol's efforts to solve a cold case from several years back. While Tony must battle with his own emotional fragility, Patterson and Ambrose are constantly frustrated at the failure to deliver the sort of progress that might help the grieving families with their pain. Like previous Tony Hill novels, Fever of the Bone simmers with bleak and contemporary intensity. McDermid presents yet another cautionary and dark exploration of evil, a deadly virus lurking in the dark heart of cyberspace, obsessively intent on obliterating the innocent.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at www.curledup.com. © Michael Leonard, 2010

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