BookReview 1989 by VAL McDERMID


In the new installment to her historical crime series that began with 1979, internationally bestselling author Val McDermid delivers a propulsive new thriller that finds journalist Allie Burns has become an editor, and as the Cold War and AIDS crisis deliver a nonstop tide of news, most of it bad, a story falls into her lap. And then there’s a murder.

Hailed as Britain’s Queen of Crime, Val McDermid’s award-winning, internationally bestselling novels have captivated readers for more than thirty years. In her Allie Burns series, she returns to the past–both ours and in some ways her own–with the story of a female journalist whose stories lead her into world of corruption, terror, and murder.

It’s 1989 and Allie Burns is back. Older and maybe wiser, she’s running the northern news operation of the Sunday Globe, chafing at losing her role in investigative journalism and at the descent into the gutter of the UK tabloid media. But there’s plenty to keep her occupied. The year begins with the memorial service for the victims of the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, but Allie has barely filed her copy when she stumbles over a story about HIV/AIDS that will shock her into a major change of direction. The world of newspapers is undergoing a revolution, there’s skullduggery in the medical research labs and there are seismic rumblings behind the Iron Curtain. When murder is added to this potent mix, Allie is forced to question all her old certainties.

Readers are having a great time time-traveling with Val, and 1989 is a seamless, riveting novel that brings us once again face to face with how very much past is prologue, and how history’s sins stay with us.




 I found this to be an absorbing thriller that really transports you back to the news and events of 1989, along with some of the vile attitudes of the time! I’ve not read the first in the series, so this can be read as a standalone, but I’m planning to read 1979 very soon!

Allie works for the Sunday Globe and looks to offer a different and relatable perspective on stories that are in the news. Shame her bosses disagree and just tow the line with sensationalising things and making stories full of prejudice. She goes from the tragic events of Pan Am 103 memorial and Hillsborough, interspersed with a developing story of worrying events with HIV trials being cancelled with no reasons given. The more she discovers about the companies involved, the more she’s drawn in to some dangerous investigations and brick walls being put in her way.

You really get the sense in this book that the life of a journalistic is never dull! Especially when you’re ready to upset the apple cart and investigate some serious dodgy goings on. I loved the character of Allie, showing the reality of her working life alongside that of her personal life, living as a lesbian and working in an atmosphere full of homophobia and misogyny. The skullduggery of the media world behind the scenes is also a part of the storyline, and really illuminates how dark and dangerous it was – and probably still is!

I found this to be an extremely readable story! It was easy to follow, full of and watching back over events of that era was fascinating and really added an interesting perspective to her experiences and what she was dealing with.


My thanks to Laura Sherlock for the advanced reader copy, in return for a fair and honest review.


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