Val McDermid grew up in Kirkcaldy, a small mining community on the east coast of Scotland and studied English at Oxford University. The books she has written featuring Tony Hill and Carol Jordan have provided the basis for the popular "Wire on the Blood" television series, while her novels have won a number of awards, including the Macavity award, the Anthony Award and Grand Prix des Romans d'Aventure. "Common Murder" is her second novel and - like her first - features journalist, Lindsay Gordon. The book was first published in 1989.
Lindsay is now living in London with her girlfriend Cordelia and working for the Daily Clarion. She's assigned a story centred around the women's peace camp at Brownlow Common - which was set up to protest about the of nuclear weapons sited at the American airbase. Lindsay, as it turns out, is a supporter of and a regular visitor to the camp. (Cordelia, a noted and successful playwright, also supports the camps aims. However, since Cordelia's more stereotypically middle-class than stereotypically lesbian, she prefers not to get her wellies muddy. Instead, she sends letters to the Guardian and makes cash available to buy lentils for the camp). The differences with regards to the camp are, indeed, a sign that things aren't going terribly well in the relationship.
The problem for the women's camp is a local action group called Ratepayers Against Brownlow's Destruction, headed up by a local solicitor called Rupert Crabtree. RABD wants the camp removed from the Common since, they believe, it's being destoyed by the women living there. (You'd be amazed how much damage candlelight vigils and singsongs can cause). Of course, the damage to the common isn't entirely down to the women : the camp is regularly attacked by a vicious gang of mad, bullying bikers. (Nasty stereotypical bikers). However, the story that brings Lindsay down has nothing to do with mad bikers and everything to do with Crabtree - he was, allegedly, assaulted by one of the women based at the camp. The woman in question turns out to be Deborah Patterson - who is, would you believe, an ex-girlfriend of Lindsay's. (It is such a small world, isn't it ? What a coincidence, that she turns up just as Lindsay's current relationship hits a sticky patch). Things, naturally, get even trickier when Crabtree is murdered close to the Common - not long after Deborah is released on bail.
On the whole, I'd describe "Common Murder" as a very quick and easy read - though McDermid's done much better than this. There's nothing special or memorable about the storyline and there's nothing particularly engaging about the characters. Lindsay 'solves' the whole thing far too easily - especially bearing in mind where the ending takes her - with the key people in the investigation giving her all the answers for no reason whatsoever. The promised "often comic prose" wasn't all that funny - I'd have been more inclined to laugh at the book, rather than with it at times. Very ordinary overall.