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The Mermaids Singing

(Tony Hill & Carol Jordan #1)

3.96  ·  Rating details ·  23,095 ratings  ·  1,389 reviews
Val McDermid stunned readers and critics alike with the publication of her brilliant thriller, A PLACE OF EXECUTION, which was a finalist for the prestigious Edgar Award. Now, in THE MERMAIDS SINGING, she continues her trademark ingenuity for suspense, and introduces criminal profiler Tony Hill, who has spent years exploring the psyches of madmen. But now he's become one o ...more
Paperback, 364 pages
Published June 17th 2002 by St. Martin's Paperbacks (first published December 31st 1995)
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Dora Hi Nicole, I haven't read the novel yet, but the title is taken from the ending of T. S. Eliot's poem "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock": "I have h…moreHi Nicole, I haven't read the novel yet, but the title is taken from the ending of T. S. Eliot's poem "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock": "I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each. I do not think that they will sing to me." The speaker is a painfully shy man who fantasises about women, who scare him to bits. - Fits this novel?(less)

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Average rating 3.96  · 
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 ·  23,095 ratings  ·  1,389 reviews

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Apr 25, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 1st-of-series
4.5 stars

This book, unbelievably, had been on my to-be-read shelf for almost 4 years. I’ve decided I’m going to be reading mostly books off my personal list this year, and this was a very easy first pick.

Holy cow, this novel is intense! If you do not like dark and twisted, stay away from this one. The story features a serial killer with very grotesque and sickening methods. DI Carol Jordan is paired with the new guy, forensic psychologist Dr. Tony Hill, as part of the team assigned to track the
Mohammed Arabey
Jan 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Mohammed by: Lema
That's how this novel was recommended for me;

This series is perfect for fans of The X-Files and Cormoran Strike.
Like I'm not obsessed enough..

And now I pass the recommendation for every “Criminal Profiling” cases fans..from the early “Jack the Ripper’s Case, Sherlock’s Cases, to Scarlet from 'Silence of the Lambs'.

The art of getting INSIDE the Criminal's Mind..you'll experience it here.. depressingly well.

This is my first read for Val McDermid, and she truly surprised me.
She gives the charac
Mar 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
I have been meaning to get around to this one for years. Having been an avid fan of the TV show I am really not sure why it has taken me so long! Anyway at last I picked it up and read it and I am very glad I did.
The TV series was good but the book is better. There is some really brutal stuff in it but I skimmed over the bits that really disturbed me. The killer uses instruments of torture which are really appalling to imagine, but leaving some of the descriptions of them unread did not spoil th
Jun 09, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: horror
Val McDermid is a great writer. This is about a serial killer and it goes into detail about how the killer tortures, so it is hard to read at times and I skipped a lot of it. I just don't want those images in my head. That being said, I really enjoyed the characters of Tony Hill and Carol Jorden and I believe I will continue with the series. I am hoping that there will be no more sexual sadists though, I am too much of a wimp to take even reading it. ...more
Carolyn Walsh
Oct 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
4.5 Stars.
Wow! That was disturbing, diabolical, deranged, and demented. Warning: graphic mutilation, torture, death by grotesque medieval instruments. However, it was so well written, and the characters so intriguing that I barely put the book down. When I did so, it was to search for the series on streaming TV and watch the episode adapted from The Mermaid’s Singing. This attention-catching title remains a mystery to me as I could find no connection with this intense and frightening story.

Jan 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the first time I’ve read a Val McDermid book, and now I see why she is an international #1 bestselling, award-winning author. What took me so freakin' long?!

This book is so well written and the characters fully fleshed out. I found the development of the psychological profile fascinating. Some of the chapters in this book are pages from the antagonist's diary. The book starts with the very first entry and showed me that this guy is one of the most sinister antagonists I’ve ever encounter
May 18, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone that loves BBC "Wire in the Blood" series
Shelves: mystery, kook
This was fantastic. It had a little bit of this


and a little bit of that


and lets not forget this


It was nice to see men being the victims for once. It was disturbing at times, and maybe that was why I loved it.
Moira Russell
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
4.5 stars
Several years ago now, I read the T.S. Eliot poem from which this book takes its title, "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" and... well, I cannot really call myself a poetry fan. I liked it well enough, in that I finished it and didn't HATE it, but... I just don't have the patience for poetry. I dislike reading in verse, I am terrible at picking out symbolism and metaphor... Poetry and I just don't mesh.

But... having reread the poem after finishing this book, I appreciate it so much
Mark Hodder
Feb 16, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2017
I'm astounded. Val McDermid is one of the luminaries of British crime fiction. This novel has predominantly four and five star ratings on Goodreads. It won the CWA Award for best crime novel of 1995. It formed the basis for a TV series. And ... it's really not very good. The writing is, at best, unsophisticated. All the characters speak with exactly the same voice, and they all express themselves like bad actors in an amateur dramatics production, constantly addressing each other by name in a ma ...more
Jun 06, 2015 rated it really liked it
I have only read a couple of Val McDermid's books but have enjoyed them and intend to read more in the future.This is the 1st book in the Tony Hill and Carol Jordan series and is an excellent start. The characters are meaty and I can imagine they offer a lot of chances to develop further in future books. Quite gruesome in places as it describes a killer who is obsessed with ancient torture methods. I feel confident that this series will only get better. ...more
Judith E
Jan 12, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audible, mystery
The first of 11 books in the Tony Hill and Carol Jordan mystery series and it’s easy to see why nearly all of them have 4+ star ratings on Goodreads. Graham Roberts was an excellent audible narrator for this well developed but unusual plot and these characterizations. Not for the squeamish as the torture scenes are stomach turning.
Apr 11, 2014 rated it really liked it
Choosing to tackle a new series, I was drawn to Val McDermid and the premise behind it. Pairing a police detective and a criminal psychologist is by no means new, but the British angle was a fresh approach for me and one that seems to work well. McDermid takes the reader down the path of numerous sub-plots while presenting a fascinating main tale to capture the attention of all who dare to explore. When men are found murdered in predominantly gay hangouts, the police are baffled as to where they ...more
Jan 10, 2011 rated it did not like it
Oh, yuck, this book.

I have quite a strong stomach. It's not that impressive or anything, but I'm not incredibly easily shocked. This book, however, was more than I could bear. I like books and TV that take a look at the darker side of life, but the torture scenes were unneccessary and extremely gratuitous (sp?). It seemed like McDermid wrote it to shock. The killer lacked nuances and did not interest me in the slightest; s/he may as well have had a mustache to twiddle. There was no depth to thei
Sara the Librarian
Strap in kids....

Things I said to myself and my husband while I was reading this;

"wait, what?" (repeat 500x at various volume levels depending on how confused/horrified I was).

"This book was published in 1995?"

"Hey Dan listen to this sentence 'Even without the animation of her blue eyes, he could see that she'd be classified as beautiful.' No really that's what it says. Stop laughing! This isn't funny!"

"Was Val McDermid in a coma when The Silence of the Lambs was written? Red Dragon just somehow
Jan 05, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Number 1 in The Hill & Jordan series.
Trying to marry the face of the author, which appears on the back sleeve, and the mind that came up with gruesomely terrifying story is hard to achieve.

This is a truly horrific and compelling read.

The police are faced with, what looks like, gay related hate killings. Problem is the killer is meticulous in his attention to detail. The corpses are washed clean before being dumped. There is not a single sign of any trace evidence. And the bodies keep coming.
Shannon M
Aug 13, 2021 rated it it was amazing
I decided to start at the beginning of the Tony Hill/Carol Jordan series. Although it was published in North America in 1995, I never heard anything about it at that time. Few UK books are publicized in the US or Canada until they become international sensations. It was before the time of the internet and Goodreads and I was much less likely to be exposed to information about it via popular magazines or while meandering through bookstores. About 10 years ago, I read one book from the series that ...more
Jill Hutchinson
Oct 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
WHEW!!!! This book grabs you and won't let go. This is the first in the continuing series of DI Carol Jordan and criminal profiler Dr. Tony Hill and I don't think any other of the books (I have read a couple) is as intense or as graphic as this one.

Four young men, who have no connection to each other, are found, battered and broken and obviously tortured horribly before they were killed. There is a serial killer on the loose and has committed the perfect crimes......so far. Although the police h
Mar 21, 2014 rated it really liked it
The Mermaids Singing is Val McDermid’s first in a series of Tony Hill and Carol Jordan novels, and I must confess that I have mixed feelings about this one. It is certainly well written and is, without a doubt, a fascinating combination of police procedural and psychological thriller.

Men are being murdered in the fictional city of Bradfield, England, and their mutilated bodies are being dumped in the Temple Fields area where the gay bars are located. After the third body is found, Assistant Chi
A chilling, thrilling, E-Ticket ride! Val McDermid does not disappoint in the first entry of her Tony Hill/Carol Jordan series. The diary entries from the killer are some of the most chilling things I have read. His research in to medieval torture devices is both fascinating and sickening at the same time. I have to admit there were a couple times where I had to put the book down just from the sheer anticipation of what was coming next. The interaction between Dr. Hill and Inspector Jordan is gr ...more
Lorraine Southern
Jan 25, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
5/85, 4 1/2 stars! ****.*

I can't believe it's taken me so long to discover Val McDermid's books, especially seeing as I was an avid fan of the Wire In The Blood tv series!!
This one was dark, twisted, fast-paced, complex, gruesome, a tad stereotypical at times (but then, it WAS written in the mid-90s), extremely well written, and a great combo of police procedure and psychological thriller. I KIND of guessed whodunnit about 3/4s of the way through, but didn't get it QUITE right! Nice twist ;)
Jul 25, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: rejected

As usual with my reviews, please first read the publisher’s blurb/summary of the book. Thank you.

I mostly hated the stilted prose and clichéd dialogue. Examples:

Reading his acts by the light of such mute traces as he left behind him, the police became aware that latterly he must have loitered. And the reason which governed him is striking; because at once it records—that murder was not pursued by him simply as a means to an end, but also as an end for itself.
Kevin made a face as his tas
Jun 26, 2015 rated it liked it
This one is over my gruesome quotient. You won't fall out of interest to what happens next, and the psychological analysis is not exactly "wrong"- but it is troublesome. This series is not for the faint of heart or cozy mystery readers. ...more
aPriL does feral sometimes

Many sensitive types should not read this novel.

First, there is lots of explicit torture. On the other hand, it's not gratuitous, in my opinion. However, it keeps on coming. As someone who reads a GREAT deal, of course I've come across historical and explicit descriptions of torture before. The Spanish Inquisition truly used incredibly awful devices of torture in real life, and the bad guy in this book, a serial killer of young men, builds such devices to use in his murders, having studie
Sep 20, 2009 rated it it was ok
Shelves: lgbt, fiction, mystery
The books on which Wire in the Blood is based. British clinical psychologist teams up with copper to profile serial killers. All expected elements present and accounted for – hostile police brass, sexual "tension," personal issues.

Yawn. And that's pretty impressive, considering books featuring a maladjusted trouble-magnet who does criminal profiling are a huge weakness of mine. But I don't think my emotional needle so much as quivered, except for occasional flickers of annoyed disgust at the vi
Jun 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favourites
After reading Beneath the Bleeding I knew I had to consume as many of these books as possible, so I continued onto The Mermaids Singing and finished it around 4 o' clock in the morning, having been so engrossed I completely lost all sense of time.

McDermid has a strong grasp of human psychology and her characters are realistic, down-to-earth and with all the gritty, dirty bits that make up a human life. Each and every character seems to breathe from the page, whether they're in the book for two
Vicky "phenkos"
Apr 16, 2017 rated it liked it
I've raised the rating from two to three stars because Val McDermid has created a truly frightening character that gives me the creeps every time I bring the book to mind. In itself that's quite an achievement. I just don't like thrillers, crime stories, stories with serial killers. They are not for my ...fainting...heart... ...more
Mar 22, 2022 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My 40th book of 2022 and a great plot and characters.

Written in 1995 the story holds well. A serial killer is stalking men in Bradfield who tortures them first and then murdering them. Tony Hill and Carol Jordan are good characters. Tony a profiler and psychologist with his own secrets and shortcomings. Carol an Inspector surviving in a police force with misogyny, homophobia and brutality never faraway.

It is odd that while Tony’s profile is accurate in many ways it misses a major clue. Althoug
Carol Jean
Jan 14, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Soooo...what are the odds that in the course of a month I would encounter two series in which the male character is dealing with impotence?

The book is well written and in places quite funny, but I skim-read the torture scenes. They are pretty graphic and very unpleasant.
John Wiltshire
Jun 24, 2016 rated it did not like it
Shelves: given-up-on
I've read this one before. I got quite far into the series, I seem to remember. It's on my Kindle. Light reading for travelling. I'll update when done...
Huh, I now remember why I gave up on this series. I must be in a minority here because I know these books are held up as masterpieces of the genre, but I don't like them. I don't like pornographic violence (torture porn). I love gore; horror; crime; deviant psychology; and all the other elements of great serial killing novels, but I don't like r
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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 Cart

Other books in the series

Tony Hill & Carol Jordan (1 - 10 of 11 books)
  • The Wire in the Blood (Tony Hill & Carol Jordan, #2)
  • The Last Temptation (Tony Hill & Carol Jordan, #3)
  • The Torment of Others (Tony Hill & Carol Jordan, #4)
  • Beneath the Bleeding (Tony Hill & Carol Jordan, #5)
  • Fever of the Bone (Tony Hill & Carol Jordan, #6)
  • The Retribution (Tony Hill & Carol Jordan, #7)
  • Cross and Burn (Tony Hill & Carol Jordan, #8)
  • Splinter the Silence (Tony Hill & Carol Jordan, #9)
  • Insidious Intent (Tony Hill & Carol Jordan, #10)
  • How the Dead Speak (Tony Hill & Carol Jordan, #11)

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