Book Review: OUT OF BOUNDS by Val McDermid

Title in white on green smoke
Genre: Mystery
Age Range: Adult
Star Rating: 3 stars
Series: yes - book 4


Book cover for OUT OF BOUNDS: title in white below open metal park gates

‘There are lots of things that ran in families, but murder wasn’t one of them . . .’

When a teenage joyrider crashes a stolen car and ends up in a coma, a routine DNA test could be the key to unlocking the mystery of a twenty-year-old murder inquiry. Detective Chief Inspector Karen Pirie is an expert at solving the unsolvable. With each cold case closed, justice is served. So, finding the answer should be straightforward, but it’s as twisted as the DNA helix itself.

Meanwhile Karen finds herself irresistibly drawn to another case, one that she has no business investigating. And as she pieces together decades-old evidence, Karen discovers the most dangerous kinds of secrets. Secrets that someone is willing to kill for . . . 

Blurb taken from Goodreads. Add to your shelves here.


I have been on-and-off my opinion of this book the entire time I’ve read it. It is technically a later entry in a series, but can be read as a standalone (it certainly didn’t affect me only reading this book.)

It does take a very long time to get going, as it has lots of one-off POV chapters to show the story from an ever so slightly different perspective. All those chapters, particularly front loaded, means it takes a while to not only get to Karen but also to get to the investigation part of the book.

There is also the fact that the book centres around three mysteries – two cold cases and a present day one. The mystery in the blurb is the one not at all related to the other, and it’s also one that doesn’t really go anywhere. It’s mostly a lot of holding pattern waiting for judges to approve things. I wouldn’t say it’s twisty at all. It also doesn’t officially get tied up. Did the suspect actually do it or not isn’t resolved, even when one line would do the trick.

The other two mysteries, the linked ones with little detail in the blurb, are by far the more engaging ones that take up more time in the book. Those are twisty mysteries, the ones that had me wanting to keep reading, to find out an answer (and an answer is at least given.) It’s the big that really engaged me, that made it a more satisfying read.

There was also what looked like a whole subplot that might have been in an earlier draft but had since been taken out, about the modern day murder victim’s friend in Myanmar. That’s all set up in the second chapter, and then there are a few other clues sprinkled in elsewhere, but it’s all brushed off at the end. Plus there’s a person of interest in the linked historical case that was serving abroad in that region. It felt like that was something that linked up in a previous version and then was removed, just with bits and pieces left in that felt a bit out of place.

Which leaves me with a toss up of enjoying the twisting linked mysteries, but finding it overall not as satisfying as I’d hoped.

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