Being a perpetual die-hard Val McDermid fan, I tend to lap up her titles with the intensity of a cat licking up milk.
Nothing, however, prepared me for The Retribution: A Tony Hill and Carol Jordan Novel, one of the author’s most bloody and violent titles so far.
In pages that seep with gore and carnage, legendary serial killer Jacko Vance
plots to escape from Oakfield Prison so that he can embark on his own special brand of terror.
While Vance can hardly wait to hear the stammering pleas for mercy, silently planning his retribution, clinical psychologist Tony Hill and DCI Carol Jordan find themselves entrenched in a turf war between the brass at Bradford and West Mercia. With her valued team at Bradford Police HQ about to be disbanded due to front-line budget cuts, Carol is under increasing pressure to wrap up any outstanding cases and make her next professional move.
Opening soon after Fever of the Bone’s RigMarole killings, The Retribution follows Jacko Vance and his efforts to escape from Oakfield. While Vance has largely adapted to life behind bars, he
is also fueled with a need to take revenge on those he thinks are responsible for constricting his life. Brick by brick, Vance builds the foundation for escape.
At the heart is the one simple element: “befriend those people who have the power to change his world.”
Rumors fly that Carol is following Tony to West Mercia now that he’s inherited his father’s ancestral house. Meanwhile, another sex-worker is brutally murdered in Bradford, the third in just over a month, but with a completely different MO. Carol’s team--Chris, Kevin, Stacey, and the lovely Paula--begin their investigation. Carol visits the crime scene, horrified to see the girl naked, her throat savagely slashed, her body fixed to a cross with sturdy six-inch nails in her wrists and ankles.
Clocking in every bloody detail, Carol sees a repulsive, sick and insolent message from a killer whose victims are all young drug users and prostitutes working near Temple Fields, Bradfield’s notorious red-light district. Now there are two serial killers: one responsible for a ghastly series of murders, while the other is on the loose, keen to make up for lost time.
What are the chances of Vance coming after Carol and Tony like an "avenging angel?" A psychopathic charmer without a trace of conscience, Vance rips through the Bradfield landscape, his actions holding on to the macabre promise that Tony has always known firsthand. In a story that is both contemporary and sophisticated--and showcases McDermid’s knowledge of the most up-to-date forensic and technological techniques--the murders convey an urgency to Tony’s risk assessment as he begins the long process of crawling into the labyrinthine heart of a killer’s damaged mind.
Shaped around a series of intense standoffs, McDermid’s plotting is tight and controlled, and she never allows Carol or Tony to step out of character.
As the case reaches a turning point, grief, recriminations and tears circle round Carol. When Vance shatters her life forever, she turns her fury on Tony, lambasting him with the fact that he should have seen the possibility that the psychopath’s revenge would take on as perverse
a form as his previous crimes.
The climax culminates in an audacious bait-and-switch, but the heart of the story is Tony and Carol’s battered friendship, their worried flailings, their mutal respect, and Tony’s conviction
that something very final is happening in a love that seems to be fading over time.