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1979 by Val McDermid: A novel as touching as it is gripping

1979 draws on the author’s own experience as it examines the misogyny, racism and homophobia in the journalism industry.

Plenty of risk-taking is to be found in “Queen of Crime” Val McDermid’s new book, 1979.

McDermid is rightly famous for her various long-running crime fiction series, but this novel feels like her spreading her wings and flying far from her safety zone. The book is the first of a projected series of five books, each set 10 years apart, and focuses on Allie Burns, a young woman working in the newsroom of a Glasgow tabloid paper in the year of the title.

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McDermid digs deep into her own experiences of working as a journalist to examine the shocking misogyny, racism and homophobia of the time, cleverly giving Allie’s story an emotional depth that might otherwise have been lacking. Allie investigates money laundering and possible homegrown terrorism alongside colleague Danny, and McDermid brings in wider political and social issues of the time with great skill.

The fact that Allie has to do all this while also battling against the boys’ club mentality in the newsroom gives the narrative a combative edge, but McDermid also gives Allie some respite in ally Danny and mentor Rona.

The end result is a novel that is as touching as it is gripping, and I can’t wait to read the next instalment.

1979 by Val McDermid is out now (Little, Brown, £20)

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