Out of Bounds (Inspector Karen Pirie #4) by Val McDermid

out-of-boundsAbout the book

Internationally bestselling author Val McDermid is one of our finest crime writers, whose gripping, impeccably plotted novels have garnered millions of readers worldwide. In her latest, Out of Bounds, she delivers a riveting cold case novel featuring detective Karen Pirie.

When a teenage joyrider crashes a stolen car and ends up in a coma, a routine DNA test reveals a connection to an unsolved murder from twenty-two years before. Finding the answer to the cold case should be straightforward. But it’s as twisted as the DNA helix itself.

Meanwhile, Karen finds herself irresistibly drawn to another mystery that she has no business investigating, a mystery that has its roots in a terrorist bombing two decades ago. And again, she finds that nothing is as it seems.

An enthralling, twisty read, Out of Bounds reaffirms Val McDermid’s place as one of the most dependable professionals in the mystery and thriller business.


I found out about this book from Renee (Its Book Talk). She described it as a captivating read and that is what made me decide to read the book. Out of Bounds is the first book that I have read by Val McDermid and although it is part of a series, I was still able to enjoy it as a standalone.

The story begins at a party after which four kids decide to steal a car and go on a joyride. The night ends with a tragic accident which marks the beginning of cold case investigation as one of the kid’s DNAs partially matched DNA found on an old crime screen. The case is soon referred to Karen Pirie, Investigator in charge of the detective’s unit that deals with the cold cases (Historical Crime Unit). At first, the case seemed quite straight forward but this is where the twists started. The lead investigator is soon faced with one hurdle after the other while trying to establish the missing link.

I found it interesting that the lead detective was involved in three cases at the same time. There was the DNA case, a suspicious suicide and a twenty year old case about a terrorist bombing. All these cases were intertwined hence making it a very complex investigation. However, the lead detective, Karen was definitely up for the task. The author did a fantastic job in creating a strong, female lead. Karen was a smart, intuitive, relentless and confident Investigator who made the investigation quite interesting.

Apart from the Investigation which was the main story-line, I like the fact that the author introduced a new angle of Syrian refugees in Scotland. We get to meet these refugees through their interactions with Karen. Their stories and struggles are shared in a way that makes them endearing. They are not treated with suspicion(it happens sometimes) but as regular people going through a tough time. I really liked this angle  even though it was not part of the main story-line.

I think that this book will appeal to lovers of police procedural. It is more character-driven than plot-driven hence the pace is not too fast. However, the characters are well-developed in such a way that it was easy to become immersed in their story. The investigation is explained in detail and as readers, we get to understand how the cases were solved. I also like the fact that the detectives relied on evidence and forensics and not purely on instincts and confessions like in some cop procedural/thrillers.  The book was also so well researched that I ended up learning a number of things. For instance; I didn’t know much about the laws concerning adoptions and the complexities surrounding the information pertaining adoption cases.

As I have already mentioned, this book can be read as a standalone. I recommend Out of Bounds by Val MacDermid to all fans of police procedural/crime thrillers.


  1. Great review! I haven’t read any of McDermid’s books yet, but they have been on my radar. It’s good to hear this one can be enjoyed as a standalone as well, because it does sound like an intriguing read.

  2. I’m so glad you ended up liking this Diana and thanks for the shout out! You’re right it was character driven for sure which for me was a nice change of pace from other police procedurals. Great review!

    1. You’re welcome and thanks a lot for the recommendation. I usually struggle with character-driven stories most of the time because of the pace. However, Karen was quite a wonderful character and I guess that is one of the reasons as to why I enjoyed this one. Thanks:-)

  3. This is what I like about thriller series, you can usually easily read the books as standalones. There seems to be a lot skillfully packed in this book, I find it interesting that the author decided to give Karen a full plate with three investigations. It makes things more realistic as often cops have to deal with more than just one case. I’ll definitely check this out! Great review.

    1. I was a bit nervous when I realized that she would have to deal with three cases but it all worked out. It wasn’t confusing to follow all three at the same time especially because they were sort of connected in a way And you were right, I think that is what happens in real life too though most authors usually give detectives just a single case.

  4. It’s always challenging for me to take the plunge and jump in mid-series. I know for most police/crime/mystery/thriller series they can all be read as standalone, but I get anxious that I’ll miss something important! Do you feel like anything connected to the previous books, or were you oblivious even if it did?

    1. Unfortunately, with NetGalley request I keep getting books mid-series because they don’t always indicate that on the book description. In this case, I don’t think that I missed alot. There were references to events that took place in previous books but I guess they weren’t very important to this one!

  5. I’ve been meaning to try Val McDermid for a while now. Your positive review makes me want to read her sooner rather than later! (Although I’m someone who has to start at the beginning on series – that’s a thing with me.)

    1. I get what you mean. You should check out her books. I haven’t read the other ones in the series but based on how good this one way, I definitely recommend..

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