Val McDermid: Criminally Brilliant

As Val McDermid's 25th novel comes out this week, we look at the fingerprints the author has left on the crime world

She bounded onto the stage at this year’s fantastic Harrogate Crime Writing Festival to sing Madonna’s Like a Virgin into her microphone headset – but it’s not her singing she’s renowned for. She has recently written her first children’s book, My Granny is a Pirate, but this is also something of a departure for her.

The Val McDermid we all love is the one we know for writing some of the UK's most creatively disturbing crime fiction, and for having the same great thrills and terrors translate so successfully onto the screen.

McDermid is something of a one-woman industry, almost a brand name for great crime fiction. But, unlike some other brand-like author names which shall go unmentioned here, this is all clearly her own work – the quality of her writing and the depth of her characters bear that out and many others have fallen by the wayside whilst attempting to replicate her.

She’s incredibly generous to the crime-writing community and to her legion of fans – a regular at festivals, sharing the stage with her long-time friends and consultants professor Sue Black and Dave Barclay, or championing debut crime novelists on the New Blood panels at Harrogate.

This jovial lady, who a few years back chaired the Harrogate quiz night sporting a spider web costume complete with spider-topped hat, is a lot of fun but, on the page, she becomes deadly. Television has been very kind to McDermid’s work. The three-part adaptation of A Place of Execution starring Juliet Stevenson was highly acclaimed and won an Edgar Award for best screenplay. But it’s mainly her hugely successful Tony Hill and DCI Carol Jordan series that she is best known for.

The second novel in that series, The Wire in the Blood, gave the television show its name and, with Robson Green as Tony Hill and Hermione Norris as DCI Carol Jordan, ran for six series. It even managed to continue with Simone Lahbib as a new character brought in for the television version when Norris left to pursue other projects. The author herself could even be spotted from time to time within crowd scenes in the series, often as a reporter – an echo back to her old crime-reporting days on newspapers.

McDermid is back and still on top form with her 25th novel The Retribution. But be warned – she’s brought Jacko Vance back with her...and he’s got revenge in mind.