1989 by Val McDermid | #bookreview #allieburns | @littlebrownUK @BooksSphere

About the Book

There’s nothing like a killer story . . .

1989. The world is changing, and Allie Burns is still on the front line, covering the stories that count.

Although Allie is no longer an investigative journalist, her instincts are sharper than ever. When she discovers a lead about the exploitation of society’s most vulnerable, Allie is determined to give a voice to those who have been silenced.

As Allie edges closer to exposing the truth, she travels behind the Iron Curtain, to East Berlin on the brink of revolution. The dark heart of the story is more shocking than she ever imagined. And to tell it, Allie must risk her freedom and her life . . .

The latest Allie Burns thriller, set a decade after the bestselling first novel in the ground-breaking, iconic new series.

My Thoughts

1989 is the second in Val McDermid’s series featuring journalist Allie Burns. It takes place ten years after the first book in the series – 1979 funnily enough. I was 19 in 1989 so can vividly remember some of the events which take place in this book. I borrowed this from the library and had to finish it this week as someone else had reserved it. That was no problem as I flew through the pages!

The book begins just after the Lockerbie plane crash in December 1988 and takes in the AIDS crisis, the unpopular early introduction of the poll tax in Scotland, the Hillsborough tragedy and the fall of the Berlin Wall. These events were the big stories of the time and I can still remember where I was when I heard about Lockerbie for example. There were lots of political and cultural references from the time and you should definitely look at the 80s playlist that Val McDermid has included at the end of the book. Perfect listening to get you into that 80s mood.

I found the beginning of the book really interesting as Allie, despite not officially being an investigative journalist anymore, can’t quite shrug off her instincts. She starts looking into a drugs trial that could potentially help those affected by AIDS but also has many questions about its safety. This leads her to East Berlin, still separate from the rest of Germany at this point. I have to admit that for me the story lost its way a bit here with a few incidents which I thought were quite unlikely given how realistic the rest of the book was.

I liked seeing the development of Allie and Rona’s relationship in this book. At this time, gay people were feared and blamed for the AIDS crisis and Section 28 meant that homosexuality couldn’t even be mentioned in schools. It was interesting to read about how a couple in a committed and loving gay relationship coped with this and I expect that the author has drawn on her own experiences here.

This being a Val McDermid novel, there is of course a murder. Although it’s foreshadowed early in the story, it doesn’t actually happen until well into the book. I found this part of the story the most compelling as Allie goes back into full blown investigative journalist mode to find out what happened.

I think overall I liked 1979 a smidge better than 1989. Having said that, I’m very much looking forward to finding out where 1999 takes Allie. That’s quite a significant year for me as it’s when my elder daughter was born.

1989 is published by Sphere Books/Little Brown and is available now
in hardback, audiobook and ebook.

About the Author

Val McDermid is a number one bestseller whose novels have been translated into forty languages, and have sold over eighteen million copies. She has won many awards internationally, including the CWA Gold Dagger for best crime novel of the year and the LA Times Book of the Year Award. She was inducted into the ITV3 Crime Thriller Awards Hall of Fame in 2009, was the recipient of the CWA Cartier Diamond Dagger in 2010 and received the Lambda Literary Foundation Pioneer Award in 2011.

In 2016, Val received the Outstanding Contribution to Crime Fiction Award at the Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival and in 2017 received the DIVA Literary Prize for Crime, and was elected a Fellow of both the Royal Society of Literature and the Royal Society of Edinburgh. Val has served as a judge for the Women’s Prize for Fiction and the Man Booker Prize, and was Chair of the Wellcome Book Prize in 2017. She is the recipient of six honorary doctorates, is an Honorary Fellow of St Hilda’s College, Oxford and a Professor at the University of Otago in New Zealand. She writes full time and divides her time between Edinburgh and East Neuk of Fife.

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