Gloria Feit's Reviews > The Retribution

The Retribution by Val McDermid
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Sep 05, 2012

it was amazing
Read on March 02, 2012

In her twenty-fifth novel, Val McDermid brings back Jacko Vance, introduced to readers in “The Wire in the Blood,” and to television viewers in its wonderful series adaptation. As the book opens, this truly malevolent serial killer, whose resume includes “killer of seventeen teenage girls, murderer of a serving police officer, and a man once voted the sexiest man on British TV” as well as an Olympic athlete and an outwardly charming and charismatic man, has served over 12 years in prison, owing mostly to the efforts of DCI Carol Jordan and psychological profiler Tony Hill. Vance has spent most of that time meticulously planning his escape, as well as his future after its successful completion: the revenge suggested by the books title, directed toward those who had caused his imprisonment, first among them Jordan and Hill, as well as his ex-wife whose betrayal he sees as making her equally culpable. Of course, his plan for vengeance merely begins there.

Carol Jordan, as yet unaware of what is about to happen, is dealing with a shake-up at the Bradfield Metropolitan Police, where the powers that be are disbanding her Major Incident Team. In an attempt to go out in a ‘blaze of glory,’ they are faced with finding a killer who has been killing street prostitutes in gruesome ways, and branding them with a distinctive tattoo on the wrist of each. Suddenly, Jordan’s priorities change with Vance’s escape, and its implications. Tony’s priorities as well must be divided between these investigations.

The relationship between Jordan and Hill has always been difficult to define, becoming more so all the time. They are not quite lovers, although they share space, and different flats, in Tony’s house. But their emotional entanglement has always been obvious to all, even if they themselves do not admit to one. That relationship, both professionally and personally, is about to be threatened now as never before.

The author goes into more of Tony’s background, and the emotional and psychological paths that have shaped him, and caused him to work at “passing for human,” than I remembered having been done in the past. He tells a colleague “I won’t deny that the people who do this kind of thing fascinate me. The more disturbed they are, the more I want to figure out what makes them tick.” It is his empathy and his oft-times brilliant insights that have made him so successful. But this is a challenge unlike any he has ever faced.

The pace steadily accelerates along with a sense of dread as Vance begins to carry out his plans, and the resultant page-turner is as good as anything this acclaimed author has written. Highly recommended.
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