Flawed Final Edition

In the hands of a more skilled prose writer, VL McDermid’s Final Edition could have been a pleasure to read. The premise itself is compelling: investigative journalist Lindsay Gordon returns to Scotland after a brush with the Secret Service sent her to self-exile. She immediately finds out that she’s been replaced by her girlfriend. Meanwhile, a close colleague of hers named Jackie Mitchell is in jail for the murder of the notorious Alison Maxwell, Lindsay’s former lover. When Lindsay is asked to prove Jackie’s innocence, she becomes involved in a sordid tale of blackmail and scandalous relationships that ultimately affects the life she is trying to rebuild.

Like I said, the set pieces are interesting. I like that the novel is trying to explore what it’s like to be a journalist in Glasgow and I like that it prominently features several lesbian characters with varied personalities and motivations. However, the dialogue is constantly clunky and expository, and the way Lindsay reacts to some events in the story borders on the shrill and self-righteous. Her stunt in trying to unveil the true identity of Alison Maxwell’s killer, for example, is downright ridiculous.

Slight spoilers after the jump.

In the scene, she makes a witness to identify the killer like it’s a magic trick, without doing any background investigation or even letting the witness look at photos of suspects in advance. Her “reveal” clumsily leads to her true discovery of the killer–I found this trick to be obvious and unsatisfying. What really bothered me is less about the actually identity of the killer and more Lindsay’s reaction afterward. Her final decision is meant to show her as tragic and flawed but it ends up making her look hypocritical.

I realize that this is an early book by VL McDermid and she is considered one of the best mystery writers in Scotland. But I’m wary of picking up another title by her to see if her writing style has improved at all over the years. Maybe if I see another secondhand copy.

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