I seem to have accidentally managed to curated my film and tv watching with what I’ve been reading lately. Val McDermid’s A Darker Domain couldn’t have fit in more perfectly if I’d tried. It may have been accidental. but it’s led to me realising just how much I don’t know about the Miners’ Strike of the 1980s, even though I was a child living in South Yorkshire at the time. Let me backtrack slightly.
Miners’ Strike Viewing
My run of delving back into the 1980s started with the film Pride on Netflix. Covering the true story of the lesbian and gay activists that supported the Miners and ended up being matched with the Welsh mining village of Onllwyn. It’s an unlikely partnership and there was quite a lot of prejudice to overcome before firm friendships were made. All this culminated with the Miners coming to march at the 1985 Gay Pride march in London to show solidarity with those that had supported them during the strike.
Pride was quickly followed by Sherwood on BBC 1. This TV series is set in a Nottinghamshire former mining village but in modern times. Two murders take place, but this is a village that was torn apart years ago by events surrounding the Miners’ Strike and the police realise that they have to unpick the present as well as the past to find the killers.
A Darker Domain
Val McDermid’s A Darker Domain is also set after the strike, but this is instead looking at an old Scottish mining community. DI Karen Pirie works in the cold cases team and is already investigating the kidnap of the richest man in Scotland’s daughter and grand-son twenty years ago, when she is then intrigued by a woman coming in to report a miner who went missing at the same time, during the Miners’ Strike. Mick Prentice’s disappearance was not reported at the time though and many thought he’d simply left Scotland to head south to Nottinghamshire as a scab. The shame that brought to his family left behind meant that his disappearance was just taken at face value by many. Now his daughter wants to find Mick as he may be the only chance of saving her ill son’s life.
But just as Karen is starting to unravel some of the circumstances surrounding Mick’s disappearance a discovery in a villa in Tuscany throws some light on the kidnap case. Torn between the two investigations Karen soon begins to realise that there might be links between them, and progress on one of them might help in the other case.
A Darker Domain reminded me of why I fell in love with Val McDermid’s writing. The background information from the 1980s is so utterly fascinating and so well researched that as a reader you are transported back there and it’s like being immersed in a lesson in social history.
Intertwined with the social history is a decent, solid crime fiction story that it is very easy to get completely caught up in. Some other reviewers have said that they felt the ending let the book down and whilst I agree that the ending doesn’t seem quit was strong as the rest of the book, I feel that is more because the rest of the book is so strong and all that just coming to an end is just a bit of a disappointment. I certainly didn’t feel that it wasn’t in keeping with the rest of the book in any way.
Returning to Val McDermid
When I first discovered Val McDermid it was via her Lindsay Gordon and Kate Brannigan series – both of which I now want to go back and re-read. Somehow some of her later series passed me by a bit, especially the Tony Hill and Carol Jordan one, but when I picked up 1979 earlier in the year it really showcased her ability to capture social history so well in her stories. As soon as 1989 comes out in paperback I’ll be trying to pick up Allie Burns’ story again and I’m already looking forward to being transported back to 1989.