Last time we chatted, Val McDermid had opened the door to Tony Hill and Carol Jordan perhaps finding contentment in each other’s company.
It was, she admitted, ‘’almost a happy ending’’ before adding ‘’but wait til you see what I have planned for them.’’
When she brought them back for her 25th novel, The Retribution, it was in tandem with Jacko Vance, the serial killer they put behind bars. Now released and intent on revenge, the destruction he inflicted sent Hill and Jordan spinning into their own abyss of grievous loss, drink, recrimination, and guilt.
In 2016, Val brought them back for ‘Splinter The Silence’ – now out in paperback.
She’ll be at Waterstones in Kirkcaldy on Thursday, May 26 reading from the book, chatting about her career and talking about her two most enduring characters – and the horrors she puts them through as they investigate the most challenging of cases.
This time round, a series of suicides sparks an investigation as a thread starts to emerge – all were bullied and abused online.
The dark underbelly of social media is a perfect setting for this ninth outing for the profiler and the cop whose lives remain so intertwined.
Nine books in, and Hill and Jordan still captivate readers, and the author who views them very much as a team.
She said. ‘‘ You can’t do one without the other. It’s the relationship between them that I like exploring – it’s a challenge to take them forward and then see what I want to happen to them.’’
For ‘Splinter The Silence’ that meant creating a new, fictional regional major incident team to bring Jordan back into the force, although she may have been closer to the real structure than she expected.
The creation of the fictional unit was key to bringing Jordan into the narrative.
‘‘It was the first problem I had to sort out - how to get Carol back into the police force. There was no point having her on the landscape without a proper job. The idea for a regional MIT came out of research I did for my book on forensics.
‘‘Several forces have joined together to run forensics labs, so I wondered if smaller forces, which rarely come up against major or difficult murders, could share an MIT team.
‘‘I asked a police commissioner I know about a regional MIT and if it would be possible – he asked me ‘who told you?!’’
With the issue of Jordan’s role resolved – long standing fans will know of her collapse following Vance’s horrifying revenge – Val set about exploring the disturbing and often dangerous world of the trolls.
‘‘I have friends in the media who have had terrible abuse online,’’ she said. ‘
“Then Kirsty Wark did a piece on woman who went on Question Time, who weren’t politicians, and they all got dreadful abuse; horrible sexist stuff – ‘too ugly to rape’ was one comment.
“Comments like that can have appalling consequences, so I wanted to explore it further – where does all this hate come from?
‘‘We thought it was on its last legs but then along came the internet and its anonymity and we found none of this had really died.
‘‘There are a lot of inadequate, deeply unhappy people out there who can’t cope with other people having any kind of life or success, and, online they have an outlet to pour bile into their eyes.’’
Val admits she has avoided the worst on the online abuse - ‘‘my son tells me I’m too scary!’’ - but is well aware of the damage it can cause.
‘‘It can be really, really tough to stand firm in the face of this kind of stuff, or even simply ignore it,’’ she said. ‘‘People have bene driven to the point of suicide by online bullying.’’
That’s the backdrop to the plot for ‘Splinter The Silence’ where the abuse leads to the suicides of several women, until, profiler Hill starts to spot a pattern, and so begins another investigation.
Where they go next we’ll have to wait as Val’s 30th book – due out next year – sees her return to cold case investigator Karen Pirie who we first met in 2003, and who figured in her 2008 novel ‘A Darker Domain’ set in Fife.
Before that hits the bookstores, Val has another project which takes her into new territory – she is adapting John Wyndham’s sci-fi novel ‘The Kraken Waves’ for Radio4 ... complete with a score by the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra.
‘‘I’ve never done anything with an orchestra, and I’ve never adapted anyone else before, so the first thing I had to do was break it down step by step to see how he put it altogether and see how it worked.
‘‘And because it’s a radio drama we had to move things around – I like to challenge myself!”
>> Val McDermid is at Waterstones, Kirkcaldy, at 7pm on Thursday, May 26.
>> ‘Splinter The Silence’ is out in paperback now.