Book review of 1979 by Val McDermid

I’ve heard quite a bit about Val McDermid so when I saw her latest novel on offer in my local supermarket, it was a bit of a no brainer. I’ve heard Val McDermid as one of the best writers of her generation and certainly a leader in the crime genre. 1979 was a brilliant new book in her series and one I’d recommend to all crime fans.

1979 book review

1979 is a novel set in 1979 (shock eh?) which follows the life of Allie Burns, a new investigative journalist at her local newspaper. When she comes across a big case that could not only jumpstart her career but also potentially stop a terrorist act, she does everything in her power to get the answers she needs to write the honest story of what is going on.

1979 plot – 4.5/5

In 1979 (both the book and the year) Ellie Burns is an investigative journalist for her local newspaper The Daily Clarion, a Scottish paper trying to offer people honest, hard-hitting news. When she uncovers a plot that could see terrorist acts taking place during a time when Scotland is pushing harder than ever for independence from the rest of the UK, she finds herself truly invested in her first journal.

However, with women not being as respected during this time and her fairly new entry into the investigative journalism field, she constantly struggles to make her voice heard and is constantly reminded that the men should be doing the bigger jobs despite it being all her work.

I really enjoyed 1979. There are technically three storylines that go on throughout. There’s a brief tax fraud case to begin with, a potential terror plot in the middle and then a murder mystery at the end. Normally I would feel like this was because the author ran out of content and so tried to drag it out. However, McDermid has cleverly written it clearly with the intention of these three storylines happening as they all interconnect in some way or another.

1979 characters – 4/5

I think 1979 does a fantastic job of writing some genuinely good storylines about people alongside the main plot too. One of our main protagonists, Danny, who works with Ellie on the terror case has a personal story at home as a result of something that happens earlier on in the book. This relationship constantly humbles Danny and reminds Ellie of how different families aren’t always as simple and easy as hers.

Ellie, herself is a fairly unassuming character. I understand sometimes in crime novels the main protagonist can’t have too much character as it makes them harder to write and harder to believe. However, I feel Ellie could have been given a bit of sense of humour or drive. She’s written as a fairly lonely but incredibly ambitious person trying to make herself stand out in a field dominated by men (as I imagine many women were during this time period.) With her intelligence and guile, you know she’ll eventually do this. But it doesn’t make her struggle and difficulties any less interesting to read along the way.

1979 summary – 4/5

1979 is my first Val McDermid novel and one that has made me a fan. With incredible writing, a clear effortless talent for writing a good story and character stories that make you care, McDermid is a new fave. 1979 is a fascinating read that is as educational as it is gripping and is a book I’d definitely recommend to any and all crime fans.