In1985, in Fife, Scotland, Catriona Grant and her infant son were taken by kidnappers who demanded that her wealthy father pay a huge ransom of cash and uncut diamonds to get her and his grandson back. Fearing that something would go wrong, Cat's father only reluctantly got the police involved in the handoff of the ransom. And, as it turned out, something did go terribly wrong on the beach that night, something that resulted in his daughter's death and the disappearance of his grandson.
Now, some twenty-three years later, Detective Karen Pirie, who was only a child at the time of the botched kidnapping, is head of Fife's Cold Case Review Team, a job she both enjoys and is very good at. The Catriona Grant kidnapping case, although it was never closed, is not being actively worked at present, but all that changes on the day that a young woman walks into the police station to report that her father is missing - and has been missing for twenty-three years. Intrigued by what the woman tells her, Karen decides on her own to classify this new case as a cold one – knowing full well that her superiors are going to explode when they learn that’s what she’s done - and begins to work on it before it can be assigned to another section.
In typical Val McDermid fashion, the missing person report opens up a can of worms involving numerous characters, side plots, and settings that keep the reader guessing until the very end. Detective Pirie, wondering why no one ever bothered to report Mick Prentice missing up to now, learns that the 1984 national miners' strike greatly influenced what happened to the missing man. With the discovery of evidence that seems linked to both the Grant kidnapping and to the missing man, Pirie jumps at the chance to work to work the two cases simultaneously – whether her boss knows it or not. The best thing she has going for her is that the two cases occurred within weeks of each other, meaning that the background information she gathers on one case often helps on the other. As the two cases begin to overlap more and more, Pirie begins to understand that many people are still paying the price for what happened on one terrible 1985 night, and that they will do anything to keep their secrets hidden.
If they haven't already read this 2009 standalone novel, Val McDermid fans will do well to find themselves a copy of A Darker Domain and get to it. This highly atmospheric novel also makes a good introduction to McDermid's work for fans of the genre who may still know her only by reputation.