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Publisher's Summary

The bodies of four men have been discovered in the town of Bradfield. Enlisted to investigate is criminal psychologist Tony Hill. Even for a seasoned professional, the series of mutilation sex murders is unlike anything he's encountered before. But profiling the psychopath is not beyond him. Hill's own past has made him the perfect man to comprehend the killer's motives. It's also made him the perfect victim. A game has begun for the hunter and the hunted. But as Hill confronts his own hidden demons, he must also come face-to-face with an evil so profound he may not have the courage - or the power - to stop it....

©1995 Val McDermid (P)1996 ISIS Publishing Ltd.

Critic Reviews

"Complex...powerful...psychologically terrifying...impossible to put down." (Publishers Weekly)
"Exciting, rapid-fire...a satisfying descent into the territory of a twisted mind." (Booklist )
"Compelling and shocking…." (Minette Walters)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings


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  • Nancy J
  • Tornado Alley OK
  • 04-08-13

The First of a Superior Series

I purchased The Mermaids Singing partially because of the reviews I read on Audible, but probably more because Val McDermid seemed to be the favorite mystery author of Mikael Blomqvist in The Millenium Trilogy (The Girl With .....). Now that I have read all of the Tony Hill/Carol Jordan books to date (a new one is due later this year), I felt it was time to write a review of the first book.

McDermid writes wonderful prose that makes her characters come alive -- all of them, not just the two major characters. I won't try to tell you about the plot, since many other reviews do that. But the development of the plot, along with the minutiae of each character's life and personality, make for excellent reading. McDermid creates a tight, incredibly tense story that keeps you reading, sometimes even when you don't want to.

If you are averse to graphic depictions of violence and perversion, you may want to skip this series. But if that's not a problem, I highly recommend these books. In Tony Hill, McDermid has created a flawed and damaged character who still manages to live in the world and work for the forces of good as a Profiler, expert at his work because of his scarred past. The relationship of Tony and Carol Jordan, police inspector, is so tentative and slow moving that you sometimes could scream, but you keep waiting for it to progress. The pair pursues serial killers in plots that will keep you on the edge of your seat with your jaw clenched.

It is important that you read the Tony Hill/Carol Jordan books in the order in which they were published, since these are not stand alone novels. The characters and their relationships and pasts are developed over the course of the series, and reading out of order makes it more difficult to follow some developments.

44 of 46 people found this review helpful

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Not for the squeamish

Would you listen to The Mermaids Singing again? Why?

My brother-in-law recommended Val McDermid to me, so I downloaded this, the first in the Hill-Jordan series. I almost stopped reading it because of the graphic descriptions of gruesome and sadistic tortures. I did finish the book, though, and even bought another, in the hope that maybe the author would realize that she didn't need to make her murders so graphic in order to write a gripping thriller. Overall, I enjoyed the book, and am looking forward to seeing whether the author gets better.

What about Graham Roberts’s performance did you like?

Very skillful performance -- almost too much so. Hopefully without giving too much away,...the performance made it easy to guess at the identity of the villain.

22 of 23 people found this review helpful

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  • Lynch
  • Kentwood, MI, United States
  • 06-30-13

Great Book!

I was an avid viewer of Wire In the Blood which was the BBC television series based on these books but I had no idea at the time that there was a written series. This book was awesome! A bit violent but what a story, dark, devious, lots of sexual tension and as far as police procedurals go - top notch. I can't wait to read the next book in the series!

Graham Roberts does a great job of narrating. He brought all of the characters to life and you can tell which one is speaking just from his voice. I can't believe I missed this series from the start.

7 of 7 people found this review helpful

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  • connie
  • Sydney, Nova Scotia, Canada
  • 05-04-13

I'm too squeamish

Other reviewers said this, but I didn't listen, so I add my 2 cents:

This seems to be above average crime fiction, but I deleted it after hour 2 because of the graphic violence. Smart cozies are my preference for distraction reading -- I can stretch to Ian Rankin or even Stuart Neville for good storytelling -- but I can't handle this novel in audio.

I think it is because McDermid is such a good writer more than the content itself - there is something particularly chilling about the dispassionate way she portrays the killer's mind. And the novel (as far as I got) is not so formulaic that you can have your finger on the speed control. Roberts' narration adds extra chill to killer's inner dialogue. The novel is erased from my iPhone, but sticks in my mind. If you can handle that kind of realism in a crime fiction, this is probably excellent. I need a good dose of Charlotte MacLeod or Ruth Dudley Edwards as an antidote. I may need to visit Rabbi Small or Father Brown.

52 of 58 people found this review helpful

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A dark and ripping yarn!

Another outstanding mystery from McDermid. A perverse serial killer is on the loose, and the attacks seem to center on Bradfield's gay community. The two main characters, Carol Jordan and Tony Hill, are dedicated and likeable and reassuringly flawed (even if Tony's problem seems somewhat overblown: a major issue resulting from what was a minor critique). They move ever so slowly into mutual trust and honesty with authentic caution.

The author's conceit of introducing the victims to us inspires our sympathy and keeps us cheering on the investigators. While the detail can be quite gruesome, especially when you've become fond of the victim, it isn't gratuitous, and the author does turn our eyes away before it becomes unbearable.

As grizzly as the book can be, the narrator is steady and impassive. He reads with the reassurance of one who knows everything will turn out fine in the end. I'm off to unearth more of McDermid's older mysteries, and search out what Graham Roberts is reading as well.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • Mark
  • Reno, NV, United States
  • 11-16-13

Almost as good as that other serial killer series

Any additional comments?

A serial killer is using medieval torture devices to kill men, and a psychological profile named Tony Hill gets brought in even though the cops don't think the cases are related. I thought I knew where this was going and kind of wrote it off as a predictable serial killer book, but the ending was magnificent. Contains some good gender discussions. The first in an ongoing series. I've now read three in the series and each one makes me appreciate the others more.

The narrator did an excellent job, especially consider how the killer's identity needed to be disguised despite conveying much of the action.

8 of 9 people found this review helpful

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  • cristina
  • Somerville, MA, United States
  • 05-05-13

I made it through four hours

I do not consider myself squeamish. I absolutely loved "Gone Girl" and all of that author's books. I am watching "The Following" on TV (where at least one person dies a horrific and very graphic death in every show). Still, there was something very disturbing about this novel. When it got to a blow-by-blow (so to speak) description of a sex phone call (definitely you would not think that would/could have been as 'violent' as some things I've read, watched or listened to), I realized my entire body was cringing. I read for entertainment -- and I was not being entertained. I was being tortured. It almost felt as if the author was enjoying it as much as the 'bad' characters in the book. Too realistic? (Too sadistic?) Maybe. "Well" written, but not for me. Definitely not entertaining.

22 of 27 people found this review helpful

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  • David
  • Houston, TX, United States
  • 10-05-13

Formula, few surprises, heavy on romantic angst

Val McDermid handles the language really well, a saving grace in what is otherwise a formulaic, somewhat tiresome story. To be fair, the serial killer genre has been so done to death that it takes almost spectacular inventiveness to give it a fresh face. But that is what we want, isn't it? In this case, if you make a list of the usual elements in the serial killer yarn, you will be able to check them off one by one as you go along without missing a turn or a beat. Even the big twist at the climactic moment is ho-hum-obvious and the denouement is downright banal.

If there is an aspect of this book which is above average as presented in audible form, it is the persona of the killer and the chilling, makes-your-skin-crawl manner in which Graham Roberts brings it to life vocally. It is, after all, only when we are presented with an evil we cannot tolerate that we can really appreciate the struggle necessary to excise it. If only the protagonist pair were equally fascinating, the book would have risen above its prosaic formula, but instead they skirt perilously close to romance novel material, unconvincing and sometimes nearly silly. The author tries to lift the story out of its pedestrian path in a five minute coda at the end, but it is so blatantly an authorial device that it falls flat.

This is the first book in a series. Perhaps it improves, but I was left too disappointed by this one to continue to the next.

7 of 9 people found this review helpful

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  • Ted
  • Lancaster, PA, United States
  • 04-18-14


Traffic slows at accidents. Slime fascinates children. Freak shows make money. Which is how, 'Mermaids Singing' seized my attention. Creepy… Tony Hill, like many of today's successful fictional detectives is disturbed… Both by terrors around him, and his own internal-disgustions. Hill trods through and morphsinto the aberrant part of the field: "Aberrant Psychology." It makes him an aberrant psychologist by profession and personality. Creepy.

The dialogues McDermid writes, and which Graham Roberts reads, are slimy. Frequently I wanted to turn them off. Creepy. But I slowed rather than sped away from the disturbing deviant muck. Creepy.

I'm a little embarrassed that I listened to the end of "Mermaids Singing." Creepy… My excuse is the exceptional writing, not, I hope, with a primal magnetic attraction to… to… things so slimy-dark and … creepy.

BTW, Graham Roberts struggles in this book with the nature of the voices that Val McDermid demands as well as the parts required. Perhaps another actor wouldn't? Or perhaps no one actor can really stretch quite as far as McDermid demands. I'll be interested to read how other reviewers describe their reactions.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

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This is not for me.

What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

Torturing humans is bad, but when it came to dogs...even barking dogs...I couldn't listen any further.

Would you ever listen to anything by Val McDermid again?


Who would you have cast as narrator instead of Graham Roberts?


5 of 7 people found this review helpful