Book Review – The Skeleton Road by Val McDermid
The blurb on this book tells of the discovery of a skeleton on the roof of a derelict building in Edinburgh and of a vigilante seeking vengeance for past crimes. What it doesn’t tell you is that this story links to the time of the Balkan’s wars and the terrible atrocities that occurred.
Maggie Blake is a Professor and fellow of Oxford University, specialising in Geopolitics. She spent a number of years in Croatia during the Balkan’s wars, going on to write books about the conflict as well as lecturing about it’s relevance to her specialist subject. Maggie met her partner, Mitja, whilst in Croatia during the war, a general in the Croatian army, and at the end of the conflict, they moved back to Oxford to start a life together. Then around eight years ago, he disappeared, never to be heard of again. Maggie assumed he’d gone home to Croatia, to a family that she had never known about. To help come to terms with this loss, she begins to write her story about their lives together during that time.
Some other people are searching for Mitja too. There have been a number of deaths, executions, of known war criminals from the Balkans. Lawyers, Macanespie and Proctor, working on war crimes tribunals have been alerted to these deaths and they think Mitja could be involved, especially as he seems to have gone to ground.
Karen Pirie is a Scottish detective in charge of historical murder cases. As she delves deeper in to the past to uncover the truth about the skeleton, the trail leads her back to Croatia and the lives of Karen and Maggie become intertwined.
What Karen uncovers and what we learn about that time as Maggie tells her own story, is shocking. Parts of this book read like a history lesson. It’s obviously well researched, with fiction alongside fact and it’s what makes the book so interesting.
At the beginning, I thought it a little heavy going, with the choice of geopolitics as a focus seeming a strange one, as it’s not particularly well heard of. I also found it hard to believe that Maggie would have risked her life going to the Balkans during a turbulent time, just to lecture and learn about this subject. I understood her wanting to stay there, once she met Mitja though. Overall though, I like the story. I say ‘liked’, when perhaps it’s not the right word when you read about some of the events at the time, but it was interesting and it kept me hooked.
Have you read this book? What did you think of it?