“Crack Down” by Val McDermid

McDermid, Val. Crack Down (1994)
Harper, 246 pages, $4.99 paperback  
ISBN 0 06 104394 X

British private investigator Kate Brannigan is one half of the firm Mortensen and Brannigan, which specializes in white collar crime, particularly financial and computer fraud.  The book opens with Kate and her boyfriend, freelance rock journalist Richard Barclay, posing as a newly married couple. They purchase a new sportscar as part of Kate’s investigation into financing fraud. Of course they’re supposed to turn the car back over to one of the company’s executives, but Richard just can’t resist driving it first.  And, of course, the car is stolen.

A few days later Richard sees the stolen car on the street and “repossesses” it. When the police stop Richard, they discover two kilos of crack cocaine in the car’s trunk. Convinced that they’ve cracked the area’s drug ring, they throw Richard into jail and have no interest in investigating further. It’s up to Kate to find out what’s going on before Richard is put away for a very, very long time. And she only has three days.

I usually don’t like mysteries set in the U.K., probably because I’m afraid I’m missing something truly important whenever the author uses an idiom or piece of slang that I don’t understand—something like “all Broderick had to do was sit back and wait till the dealers finally got round to admitting they’d flogged some metal. Then it would be gumshields time in the car showrooms” (p. 13). However, it’s impossible not to take to Kate Brannigan right away. How can you not like somebody who says, “He’s got flaming red curls as tight as a pensioner’s perm and a face like a sad clown. He’d have no chance in an identity parade unless the cops brought in a busload of Ronald McDonalds” (p. 68).

McDermid’s (and Brannigan’s) sense of humor, several well-developed minor characters, and a plot that’s complex without being convoluted make this novel a delightful read.

© 1997 by Mary Daniels Brown

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