I've read a lot of Val McDermid's books, but I gave up a while ago because they were so violently graphic. Or graphically violent. Maybe I've been reading the wrong series. Those were the Tony Hill / Carol Jordan ones. This is a DCI Karen Pirie book. It takes place in and around Edinburgh.
During a routine safely inspection of a long abandoned building, a skeleton is found on the roof. No identification is found on the body except a hotel key card and bits of bank card information rubbed off on the key card. Pirie discovers that the bones belong to a Croatian general from the Balkan wars in the early 1990s.
Her investigation takes her to Oxford, to Maggie Blake, an Oxford professor, and her best friend, Tessa Minogue. The general had been living with Blake after the wars and had disappeared eight years earlier. Blake thought that he had decided to go back to whatever he left in Croatia. A wife? A family? She had never known anything about his past. It was only the present and the future that mattered to them. She never tried to contact him or find out where he was.
In the meantime, someone is killing war criminals from the Balkans, people the war tribunal is about to arrest. Someone is meting out swift justice of their own. Was the general killed by the same person? For the same reason?
DCI Pirie goes to Croatia to investigate. Pirie stays one step ahead of the lawyers trying to solve the case of the premature murders of war criminals. They do not like her for that.
I think this book lacked the intensity of the Tony Hill books. Maybe that's something the violence brings to them. But I enjoyed the plot and the characters in The Skeleton Road. I'm up for another DCI Pirie case.