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A Darker Domain

(Inspector Karen Pirie #2)

3.94  ·  Rating details ·  6,992 ratings  ·  537 reviews
1984, Fife. Heiress Catriona Maclennan Grant & her baby son are kidnapped. The ransom payoff goes horribly wrong. She is killed while her son disappears without trace. 2008, Tuscany. A jogger stumbles upon dramatic new evidence that re-opens the cold case. For Detective Sergeant Karen Pirie, it's an opportunity to make her mark.
Hardcover, 371 pages
Published November 1st 2008 by HarperCollins Publishers (first published 2008)
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Average rating 3.94  · 
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Sep 29, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audiobook
McDermid returns with a novel that gives Karen Pirie the central role she lacked in the series' opening novel. Now a Detective Inspector with Cold Cases, Pirie is approached by a woman who wishes to report her father missing after twenty-two years. Pirie learns that Mick Prentice was presumed to have left for Nottingham during the miner's strike of 1984, where he worked as a scab. However, the more Pirie learns, the less likely Prentice appears to be prone to cross the union, no matter his ...more
Jan 22, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Second in the Karen Pirie series, this was much better than the first. Karen is front and center of this book. I now know her better, and I like her.

I’m really enjoying Val McDermid’s writing style. It’s a slower pace, there’s more character development, and the storylines make me very curious about how things connect. Most of this book takes place in 2007, with Karen and Phil Parhatka working two cold cases. A mother and her infant are kidnapped in 1985 and the child has never been found.
Dec 12, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2016-challenge

3.5 stars

In this 2nd book in the 'Inspector Karen Pirie' series, the cold case cop looks for a man who disappeared 22 years ago and a kidnapped baby boy who's been missing for over two decades. The book can be read as a standalone.


The 1984 coal miners' strike in Great Britain hit the Scottish town of Newton of Wemyss very hard. Miners' families had no heat, no food, and no hope. In desperation, a few blacklegs (scabs) went south to work in the mines of Nottingham, England. The scabs were
Sep 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A Darker Domain (Inspector Karen Pirie, #2) by Val McDermid.

This gifted author and this particular series in her repertoire are now among my favorites.
This story focuses on two cold cases. The first is a man presumed a scab/strike breaker due to his turning his back on his family and fellow coal miners by walking out presumably to a town down south. Now his daughter has a gravely ill child that desperately needs a match for a donor to save her son. His daughter, Misha, needs to find her father.
Aug 15, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviewed
Karen leaned back in her chair, not liking the answer she came up with, but knowing there would be nothing better coming from the man opposite her. ‘You were a right bunch of fucking cowboys in the old days, weren’t you?’ There was no admiration in her tone.

I don't know what I expected but I did not expect to like this book as much as I did. I gather from a lot of comments and other reviews that this is one of McDermid's weaker offerings but I actually really enjoyed the mix of interlinking
This is the second of the Karen Pirrie novels. It is a complicated story of a kidnapping gone wrong, and a separate case of a missing miner. Both cases date back to 1984. I didn't realize that Scotland had extensive coal mining, and were part of the Miners' Strikes 1984-85, when Thatcher and the union leader Arthur Scargil, shared the blame for destroying the livelihood of so many.

A UK journalist on holiday breaks into an abandoned villa in Italy. She discovers a large blood stain, and a
Aug 29, 2016 rated it it was ok
A Darker Domain started strong with a cold case involving miners who went missing during the brutal strike of 1984-1985. Having recently read How Green Was My Valley I appreciated being brought up to date on UK mining and the strike's impact. There were some interesting settings including the Wemyss Caves in Fife that actually exist and have famous Pictish wall drawings. DI Karen Pirie is likable character who describes herself as a wee fat person.

But there were far too many characters (quite
Mar 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
Many reviewers seem to take issue with the complexity of the plot and the number of characters. While both are true, I enjoyed this book and the interlocking pieces of the plot.
Apr 02, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery, read-in-2009
It may have been a mistake to read "A Dark Domain" as close to the new Laura Lippman novel as I did. Lippman's stories always set my expectations bar high for mystery stories.

I really did think Val McDermid had it in her to compete with Lippman. I consumed "A Place of Execution" a few years ago, but I have to be honest that McDermid's novels since then have been rather hit or miss for me.

Chalk "A Dark Domain" up as a miss.

And it's got such an intriguing premise. A woman walks into the cold
Nov 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Scabs and kidnappers...

As the miners’ strike of 1984 dragged on, the miners and their families were increasingly desperate, relying on donations of food from sympathisers and collecting wood for fuel. A group of miners from the Fife village of Newton of Wemyss secretly left one morning to make their way to Nottingham, where the pits had re-opened, worked by men who were considered traitors – scabs – by the men of the National Union of Mineworkers. That morning, Mick Prentice disappeared too, and
M.L. Rudolph
2008. A cold missing persons case in a Scottish mining town reopens an unsolved twenty-two year old kidnapping and murder and leads Detective Inspector Karen Pirie to a pair of "unrelated" disappearances which altogether unravel the complex relationship between the miners and the most powerful man in Scotland.

If that sounds like a huge story, it is. We've got: Class warfare. Gender warfare. Abuse of power. Press connivance. Provincialism. Nationalism. Union busters and scabs. Art versus
Nancy Ellis
May 23, 2011 rated it really liked it
This lady can write!!! She is rapidly rising in the ranks of my favorite authors, almost equal to P.D. James! This book is not a part of her Tony Hill series but is a stand-alone. Cold Case Detective Karen Pirie takes on a missing person case from 1984, a man missing during the Welsh miners' strike. She's also assigned to another cold case, that of a kidnap/ransom/murder case around the same time period. I enjoyed the way the author develops these cases and then brings everything together. I ...more
Dec 21, 2008 rated it really liked it
Val McDermid has tackled some social history that is obviously very dear to her own heart in A DARKER DOMAIN, and it has to be said, she's done it with considerable style. Not only does this book give you a fascinating glimpse into the social chaos and personal pain caused by the Miner's Strikes in early 1980's Britain, it carries the story of three unfathomable disappearances.

Cold Case squad detectives DI Karen Pirie and DS Phil Parhatka are initially looking into the disappearance of Mick

This started out promising. DCI Karen Pirie has been promoted from The Distant Echo, as a cold case detective and as a character, after having put her former boss in prison for murder.

Two cases from December 1984 (during the Scottish mining strike) come to the surface at the same time. One is the disappearance of a miner who was presumed to have departed with a group of Scabs, but his daughter has discovered that he didn't go with those men after all. (As she now has a young son dying of
Dec 07, 2016 rated it liked it
Detective Inspector Karen Pirie is in charge of cold cases in the Kingdom of Fife (I love that). A young mother contacts the police to report her father missing. The trail is a little cold, he's been gone for 25 years. The back story is that Mick Prentice disappeared during the 1984 miner's strike, presumed to have gone off scabbing with a group of fellow coal miners. The case is interesting enough to catch Karen's attention, but her boss has other plans. A clue to an unsolved kidnapping ...more
Feb 15, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This is another standalone from the talented Val McDermid, who as usual is able to weave together many threads to produce one compelling narrative. By the time I got to the end of the book I couldn't stop reading it. The main character is Detective Karen Pirie, a cold case detective in Fife, Scotland. She gets two cases that are real heartbreakers: one is the case of a young woman looking for her long missing father - she hopes his bone marrow can help save her gravely ill son. The other is the ...more
Peter Birchenough
Jun 08, 2015 rated it really liked it
Not having previously been keen to read a Val McDermid book after my first experience, I was persuaded to pick up another; A Darker Domain being the recommended novel to start with. After getting through the first through chapters and getting used to the prose, I was finding myself being drawn in to a very well written mystery. I found I was soon truly drawn in and didn't want to put it down. There were a number of plot lines going on that got the imagination running away with itself and the ...more
Part of my disappointment in this was that I was reading it for a purpose--making a list of Celtic Noir mysteries. Lots of it takes place in Italy, which didn't fit what I was looking for. Still an interesting series. I had listened to the first, Distant Echo, when it came out in 2009, without knowing it was the first in the series--wasn't marketed that way. Interesting series character, prickly detective Karen Pirie, who works cold cases in Scotland. Two cases are intertwined here, and the ...more
Jul 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A Scotland detective head of cold cases investigated two from twenty years back, one a kidnapping gone wrong, the other the case of a missing miner. Val McDermid is a master at thrillers with a dark twist and this one does not disappoint. This was a rare out-of-order read for me as I didn’t notice this was a series. Luckily it is only #2 and I have #1 on the TBR. I liked this so much I may even read it next, even though I know the outcome of that case because it played a small part in the ...more
Carey Combe
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Apr 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
I've been reading this series backward but it hasn't lost its charm. Cold cases, female detective in Scotland and Val McDermid with her usual great story telling. This one involves a young girl looking for her father after 20 years in hopes of finding a bone marrow transplant candidate for her son. Simple premise leading on a many tangled and quite complex mystery. Loved it once I got a handle on various characters and two different cold cases. If you haven't tried McDermid and love mysteries I ...more
Apr 07, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: mystery
A Darker Domain is the second Detective Karen Pirie mystery following on after The Distant Echo and in both cases I figured out the resolution of the plot long before the detectives. I don’t think this is because I am particularly clever but instead that McDermid laid it out a little too thickly in both cases.

The book also relied far too much on flashbacks for my taste and the denouement is provided in a (very) long expository letter. I much preferred the sections set in the present day.
Bought to read on an 11 hour plane journey and did the job, i.e. was well-enough written to enable me to read it and sufficiently intriguingly plotted to keep me interested, but overall impression was it was all a bit too stretched, a little far-fetched (not really a criticism in a fictional tale!) and jumpy in its delivery.
Jul 23, 2012 rated it liked it
Val McDermid, i like to imagine, is good with dogs. she always seems to make some reference to dogs in her books, be it in analogy ("she shook the rain out of her hair like a wet dog") or as direct appellation (depicting the expressive eyes of an actual dog). most importantly, The Dog That Did Not Bark--that the absence of an expected happenstance is a red flag-- is a practiced axiom in her oeuvre, where the most genuine of communications often takes place in What She Did Not Say, and What He ...more
Jun 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Oh this is good, very very good. The second in the series featuring the great, DI Karen Pirie. I actually couldn't put it down or stop thinking about it when I wasn't reading it. I just love the way it's written.

Briefly, it starts with the report to the Cold Case Review Team (which Karen is head of) of missing Mick Prentice (by his daughter) who disappeared without trace some 22 years previously.

Karen is also then summoned to the home of mega wealthy businessman, Sir Broderick Maclennan Grant,
Jan 20, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: crime
While McDermid doesn't play all of her cards too early, A Darker Domain almost completely runs out of steam once everything is revealed. She attempts to inject some thrills into the last thirty pages but they are damp squibs in what was, up to them, a fairly compelling crime novel powered by two interesting protagonists acting both together and at cross purposes.

Using several of the same characters of The Distant Echo, A Darker Domain dredges up the ghosts of both the 1984 miner's strike and a
Rochelle French
Jun 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Oh yes. Another hit.

So that last paragraph made me cry. Read the book front to end so you get that moment, too. Val McDermid makes the pages in between so well worth the journey.
Carol Jean
Mar 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
Interesting, and with a lovely plump heroine, but I was a bit troubled by the jumps from someone telling the story to the actual story, from several years ago, actually happening. It's a nit to pick and I may not have described it well, but I found it jarring.
Carol Turner
Jan 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Another pitch perfect mystery by McDermid.
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Val McDermid is a No. 1 bestseller whose novels have been translated into more than thirty languages, and have sold over eleven million copies.

She has won many awards internationally, including the CWA Gold Dagger for best crime novel of the year and the LA Times Book of the Year Award. She was inducted into the ITV3 Crime Thriller Awards Hall of Fame in 2009 and was the recipient of the CWA

Other books in the series

Inspector Karen Pirie (5 books)
  • The Distant Echo (Inspector Karen Pirie, #1)
  • The Skeleton Road (Inspector Karen Pirie, #3)
  • Out of Bounds (Inspector Karen Pirie, #4)
  • Broken Ground (Inspector Karen Pirie, #5)