"Splinter the Silence" is Scottish writer Val McDermid's 30th crime thriller, the latest in a series, set in London, featuring clinical psychologist and profiler Tony Hill and the supremely competent and intimidating once and future detective Carol Jordan. Jordan is arrested for drunken driving, but the charge somehow goes away when she is tapped to lead a new regional Major Incident Team to investigate murders and major sexual assaults over a wide area, using local police for help as needed.
The novel is as rich in character development as it is in plot. There is the fraught relationship between Tony and Carol, now complicated even more by his intervention in her drinking problem. There are the quirky personalities of the other team members, particularly supergeek computer analyst and forensics expert Stacey Chen. Her hacking methods, however, described in detail, fascinate McDermid more than they did me.
Tony involves them all in a case only he sees as one. The deaths of three women have been ruled suicides. Each of them had gone public with criticisms of certain men's misdeeds and suffered from an onslaught of insults and threats from Internet trolls that made life so unbearable that they killed themselves.
Each one copied the suicide of a famous writer whose book was found by the body. Jasmine Burton walked into a river with stones in her pocket, like Virginia Woolf. Kate Rawlins asphyxiated herself with car exhaust, like Anne Sexton, and Daisy Morton, imitating Sylvia Plath, put her head in an oven.
Once, Hill thinks, "was interesting; twice was a coincidence; three times was a pattern. And the rule of thumb was, three plus one is a serial killer."
We already know that, from the killer's own ruminations. We hold our breath as he plots his next murder and the team scrambles to find out who he is and what he plans to do. McDermid has delivered another stylishly written, complex thriller.
Brigitte Frase is a book critic in Minneapolis.