Scotland’s murder mystery author Val McDermid is to be given the unusual accolade of having the new morgue at the University of Dundee named after her. The Val McDermid Mortuary will also feature the Stuart MacBride Dissecting Room, after another of Scotland’s top crime writers, and a collection of new submersion tanks named after Jeffery Deaver, Kathy Reichs and Harlan Coben. This is following a campaign from the university to raise £1m to build a new morgue, which the crime authors backed. They asked members of the public to vote for the writer they wanted the morgue named after and to donate money.
Val McDermid’s won the Crime Writers’ Association’s Gold Dagger for fiction, its Diamond Dagger for lifetime achievement and the Theakstons Crime Novel of the Year award, among many other prizes. She says her latest win is “a very proud moment for me”. “It is kind of weird though, nobody starts their career thinking ‘one day I will have a mortuary named after me’. But it’s absolutely up there with winning book prizes, even though it’s a different kind of honour.”
Professor Sue Black, head of the Centre for Anatomy and Human Identification at the university of Dundee, has helped the author with “grisly” technical details of murder when writing her novels. McDermid wanted to “give something back to a community that is of tremendous value”. She said “All crime writers rely on the help of professionals like Sue to make sure we get the details right. Giving a bit of help back in return is the least we can do. The work that’s being done in this mortuary and the knowledge it will communicate means better life chances for all of us. For once, we crime writers have had a chance to put life ahead of death and I’m thrilled to have been part of it.”
The other writers taking part in the campaign were Lee Child, Jeff Lindsay, Tess Gerritsen, Peter James, Mark Billingham and Caro Ramsay. Child, said McDermid, “was the one writer they really didn’t want to win, because it would have been the Child Mortuary. And Lee’s said he wants his tank to be the Jack Reacher tank [after his most famous character], for reasons of taste.”
MacBride, author of the Logan McRae thrillers, said the news of his dissecting room was a “really big honour”. “As runner-up prizes go it’s pretty damn special. It’s a really important project and every pound the public have donated is going to make a huge difference to the future of anatomy, forensic science, and medical training.”
The new morgue is the first in the country to use the Thiel method of embalming, which the university said “gives surgeons, dentists, scientists and researchers a more realistic method of testing techniques, practising procedures and developing new equipment and approaches”.