In addition to the 1995 Gold Dagger Award winning Mermaids Singing and the popular series featuring Kate Brannigan, Val McDermid is the author of a series of crime novels featuring Lindsay Gordon. (Photo of Val by Jerry Bauer)
Report For Murder
Booked For Murder
About the Author
Other Women's Press Authors
Lindsay Gordon is, in her own self-mocking words, a `cynical socialist lesbian feminist journalist', with a penchant for hanging around police interrogation rooms under suspicion of some crime or other. It's a habit she's seriously trying to kick but, as with the whiskey and cigarettes, she never seems to quite pull it off. As a member of one of the most traditionally tough male dominated professions, a profession often perceived as soulless, she battles to keep her job, integrity and sanity while solving the crimes (usually murder) which seem to haunt her every step. By her 4th adventure (and in a police cell again!) she ends up feeling like "the bloody angel of death".
Lindsay is principled, tough, straight-speaking, witty, strong-minded, loving, passionate, pragmatic, and fiercely independent. While these are the very qualities which win her close, loyal friends, they are also the qualities that tend to make her a pain-in-the-neck to friends, suspects and police alike! At times she is stubborn, cutting, unapproachable. She has a strong need to be right which often leads to trouble. But these traits are born of conviction and a fear of being compromised. And to her credit, she does know when she's over-stepped the mark, she just doesn't stop herself doing it. There's a lot in Lindsay's life that demands conviction, be it in social, personal or sexual politics. Lindsay may not always do the crime-cracking business in a conventional way, sometimes not even in a responsible way, but you can be sure that she works hard to do it the right way. And she is never afraid to take responsibility if things do go wrong.
Val herself has worked as a journalist for 16 years, and was active for 10 years in the National Union of Journalists. The influence of her experience is quite obvious in her writing and this is what makes the novels authentic. Val's love of her native Glasgow emerges strongly and her sharp wit produces some memorable dialogue. Contemporary issues are woven into the novels in a way that both enlightens and entertains. You are not left to imagine what it's like to be a `cynical socialist lesbian feminist journalist', Val shows you, and one of the great strengths of her writing is in this insight. Not forgetting of course, the cleverness of her plots and the charm of a heroine who is not ground down (too much) by the system. Lindsay always comes bounding back, causing as much trouble as ever! You can't help but like her! (E.A.L.)
Report For Murder
In Val's first novel, Report For Murder, Lindsay finds herself in the middle of an investigation into a brutal murder at a private girls' school in Derbyshire. As a favour to an old, close friend Paddy Callaghan, who she met while studying at Oxford (now working as a housemistress at the school), she has agreed to write a piece about the school's fund-raising activities, in an attempt to save the school from closure. The assignment is at odds with Lindsay's political convictions, but she does need to pay her own bills and she can't be too choosy now she's having to freelance to make a living. And after all, Paddy is an old friend she hasn't seen for years.
At the school she meets Cordelia Brown, a famous novelist and TV writer, an old-girl and another of Paddy's friends. On their first meeting the two women are instantly attracted and begin a passionate, and often stormy affair which is the backdrop to many of Lindsay's subsequent adventures.
Just before the main event of the weekend, the Gala concert, is due to start, the honorary guest, another old-girl and famous cellist, Lorna Smith-Couper, is found strangled in the music room. As an on-the-spot reporter, Lindsay is asked by the Head to take over the business of giving out statements to the press. As such, she has first-hand knowledge of the scene of crime and the course the police will take. Through the school grape vine it becomes apparent that a number of people had cause to hate the dead woman, and when the police summarily take a member of staff into custody without so much as a whisper of an investigation into anyone else's motives, Lindsay and Cordelia are asked by the Head to step in and save the school and its reputation before all of the girls are removed by their parents.
The women are unfamiliar with this type of investigation and initially reluctant but they pool their skills and come up with a scheme of action which will hopefully un-mask the real killer. Although the story at times has the unmistakable feel of an Agatha Christie whodunit, there is none of the `cosy' resolution of plot. The action builds to a terrible climax, and even when the murderer is safely in police custody, there is a unpleasant feeling of tragedy about the whole business, not only for the victim, but also for the investigators themselves.
The setting of the second Lindsay Gordon novel Common Murder, is the Women's Peace Camp at Brownlow Common. Peaceful demonstrations are being organised, and the women have set up camp outside the gates of the Military base as a protest against the siting of US cruise missiles there. The camp is thrown into chaos when one of thier members is accused of assault. Lindsay's connections with the women make her the ideal person to cover the story of alleged assault on a prominent member of the hostile Brownlow Ratepayers Association, Rupert Crabtree. When she finds that the woman accused is her ex-lover Deborah Patterson, and the body of Crabtree is subsequently found dead on the common, Lindsay has to bring all of her expertise as an investigative reporter into play to prevent Debs from being tried for murder.
For once, the police seem keen on her help and Lindsay works with Superintendent Rigano to try to show that Debs is innocent. But Lindsay delves a little deeper than expected and soon finds that the intrigue goes way beyond anything she imagined. Secrets and cover-ups in high places are involved and Lindsay cannot let the whole thing drop. She has to play the game right to the end and as a consequence ends up leaving the country in fear for her life.
The plot of the story is interleaved with the many tensions in Lindsay's life. Strain is appearing in her relationship with Cordelia whose middle class life as a popular author and TV personality seems a long way away from the down-to-earth, harsh reality of a journalist working for the tabloid press. Lindsay becomes increasingly uneasy about her job and its inevitable clash with her principles and commitments. To do her job properly, she has to suppress feelings of compassion for the people involved and get on with reporting the facts. Reporting of `facts' can lead to misrepresentation and distortions of the truth and when this touches her friends she finds her role hard to justify.
In Final Edition, Lindsay is back in her native Glasgow after her self-imposed exile following the Brownlow Common investigation. She returns to find that Cordelia, her lover for the past 3 years, has found someone else. And even though it was Lindsay herself who left the country, she still finds the situation difficult to cope with. What makes things worse is that Cordelia and her new lover Claire Ogilvie, a lawyer with a thriving commercial law practice, want Lindsay to investigate the murder of Alison Maxwell, a well known Glasgow Journalist. The person jailed for the murder is Jackie Mitchell, Claire's former lover, and colleague of Lindsay's. Jackie had been having a clandestine affair with Alison and when she is found strangled with Jackie's own scarf, Jackie is arrested and convicted of the murder.
The murdered woman, Alison Maxwell was a keen journalist with an irresistible sexual attraction to both sexes. She used this power over others to seduce and manipulate them for her own entertainment, keeping a secret record of her encounters and using a scoring system that could only relate to their sexual performance. Lindsay had discovered Alison Maxwell's twisted tendencies in the worst possible way - she'd fallen for the woman herself in the past and when she tried to end the relationship, threats and attempted blackmail followed. This failed in Lindsay's case, but she knew all too well the feelings of rage, fear and passion that this woman could invoke. There were many who might want her dead.
The murder, coupled with a theft involving secret Scottish Office documents and the personal papers of a politician with questionable sexual standards himself, drags Lindsay into a sordid world of blackmail, prostitution, lies and murder.
The story has some very clever twists and when the final dénouement actually comes, the conclusion is quite shocking. The clues are there all along but as with any good whodunit, they are well-hidden.
Union Jack is Lindsay Gordon's most recent foray into crime solving. The story begins with Lindsay and her new lover Sophie (an old friend from way back), returning after 3 years in the States so that Lindsay can attend a Journalists' Union Conference in Sheffield.
Lindsay has given up practicing Journalism in favour of a quieter life teaching it and she now lives with Sophie at the edge of the ocean. Although she hates to admit it, she too is attracted by the healthier Californian lifestyle. She is researching the role of women in the Trade Union Movement as part of her thesis and attending this conference with her former colleagues seems the ideal place to start.
Initially we are taken back to Blackpool, 1984 and Lindsay's first experience of Trade Union politics. She travels to the conference with her close friend and colleague Ian Ross. On the journey they are both in low spirits as Lindsay is trying to get over the tragic death of her lover Frances, and Ian is suffering in his relationship with his wife, Laura Craig. It looks like he has finally had enough and is kicking her out. Lindsay is slightly overwhelmed by the machinations of the conference, and is nudged out of it by her friend Siobhan who's there to have a good time, and is in the running for the annual 'Legover of the Conference' award - a different man every night! Lindsay having just listened in on a meeting of the Standing Orders Sub-committee, has to admit that she "can't believe grown ups think this is a reasonable way to spend their time....It's like an Oxford tutorial without the relevance to real life."
However, the events at the conference turn from bad to worse as there are abusive confrontations among the delegates, with Lindsay playing her part in the accusations of financial corruption, Lindsay herself is subjected to a vicious personal attack and to top it all a tragic accident brings the conference to a close.
At the present day Conference in Sheffield 1993, Lindsay meets up with many of her former colleagues, some of them old friends and a few old enemies. One of the latter is Tom `Union' Jack who was involved in the accusations of corruption way back at the Blackpool conference. Things have changed a lot since then and Union Jack now has a great deal of power within the union. There is tension because of the merger of two Unions and Jack is again the centre of attention. When he is found dead, having fallen through the window of Lindsay's room, there appears no other obvious candidate for the murder and so Lindsay is taken away for questioning by the police. Among the rumours of financial corruption and abuse of power, and with the sinister appearance of a anonymous news bulletin the Conference Chronicle whose aim is to expose this corruption, Lindsay has to fight for her own freedom before she can investigate the real reasons for this murder.
Booked For Murder
Tangled Web Review of Booked For Murder
Val has written five Crime Mysteries featuring Lindsay Gordon:
"Report For Murder" © 1987 (The Women's Press) (0 7043 4080 1) £5.99 "Common Murder" © 1989 (The Women's Press) (0 7043 4206 5) £5.99 "Final Edition" © 1991 (The Women's Press) (0 7043 4274 X) £5.99 "Union Jack" © 1993 (The Women's Press) (0 7043 4334 7) £5.99 "Booked For Murder" © 1996 (The Women's Press) (0 7043 5071 8) £15.99[../twebref.htm]