In an isolated hamlet in the English countryside, thirteen year-old Alison Carter disappears while walking her dog one afternoon.  Normally an insulated community that chooses to keep to itself, with only the children venturing outside of it to attend school, Alison’s mother goes against the village’s normal practice and calls the police, outsiders, for help.  In time, the police discover, as they are wont to do, deep, dark little secrets scattered throughout the small community.  As the December days grows colder and shorter and time begins running out, will Inspector George Bennett find Alison and bring her home, even if it is her frozen corpse?

Val McDermid’s A Place of Execution has been shortlisted for the Gold Dagger and the Edgar Award.  Although the premise of the mystery isn’t a new one–girl goes missing, everyone is a suspect–she’s able to weave in new subtle elements that turn the mystery on its side.  We also meet Inspector George Bennett, newly married and still wet behind the ears at his job, the first detective I’ve encountered in a mystery that has a functional family life.  And even with the family and personal life in order, McDermid can still write worthy battle sequences that the detective fights, within himself and with the antagonist.  If you are at all wondering how to properly write a functional and rational, yet complex and emotionally charged main character hero, this book is worth picking up for that character study alone.

Snuggle up with a warm cup of cocoa or tea for this one, because you’ll feel the chill of the December afternoon and hear the crackling of the branches and leaves as they send out the search parties for Alison.  This is a lovely thriller for the Halloween season and one that will make you glad you’re safe and sound in your warmly lit reading cocoon.