I tore through Kate Millett’s Sexual Politics over a weekend in 1973. At the time I was in my second year at St Hilda’s College, Oxford, studying English, which was in many respects a deeply conservative course. But after a friend lent me the book, it was as if an explosion had gone off in my head.
My politics had always been of the left, but I’d never really encountered a feminist perspective before. Sexual Politics allowed me – it forced me – to look at the world in a different way.
I was on fire with what I had read. I couldn’t stop talking about it. I went into my tutorial the next week and launched into a 10-minute rhapsody about the book and how it had transformed the way I looked at the canon. My tutor, Anne Elliott, a distinguished middle-class English Christian who specialised in The Faerie Queene, listened patiently, then said:“Ah yes, dear Kate. I supervised the thesis that became Sexual Politics.” It was as if Margaret Thatcher had claimed responsibility for Simone de Beauvoir.
In the 30 years since her first novel was published, Val McDermid has written 30 books, both fiction and non-fiction. She shows no sign of slowing down, with her 10th novel featuring Dr Tony Hill and DCI Carol Jordan hitting the shelves this week with their most bewildering case yet.
A car is on fire on a remote road. Inside is the body of a woman. The Regional Murder Investigation Team, a newly created unit headed by Jordan, is called in to solve the mystery. Unfortunately, the fire brigade reached the car first and washed away potential evidence while putting the blaze out.
Then another woman is found in similar circumstances. Forensically aware, the killer leaves no clues to his identity or his reasons for killing two very different women. With the press on their heels, and a disgruntled senior police officer willing her to fail, Jordan and her team are under pressure to solve the case.