three-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
57-Mar-Apr-2012
By: 
Val McDermid
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0

A Tony Hill & Carol Jordan Novel

A-The-RetributionVal McDermid is one of the United Kingdom's leading crime writers and the author of three series and nearly a dozen stand-alone novels. In McDermid's 25th novel in as many years--and the seventh in the series (The Wire in the Blood [1997], The Last Temptation [2002], Beneath the Bleeding [2007])--Tony Hill and Carol Jordan are haunted by their nemesis, a serial killer they thought they had put away for good more than a decade before.

The Story: "Jacko Vance, killer of seventeen teenage girls, murderer of a serving police officer, a man once voted the sexiest man on British TV, could hardly wait." So begins a return to hell for crime profiler Tony Hill and police officer Carol Jordan when they learn that their nemesis has escaped from prison. Pitted against Vance (a character reprised from the earlier The Wire in the Blood)--a former athlete, a television star, and a cunning serial killer with too much time on his hands--the two try to avoid Vance's retribution while investigating the murders of the prostitutes who have started turning up dead on northeast England's streets of Bradfield.
Atlantic Monthly Press. 416 pages. $25. ISBN: 9780802120175

Criminal Element 4 of 5 Stars"The complexity and realism of McDermid's characters carried me rapidly through the novel, even her twisted villain, who narrates his own long sections, giving a very clear picture of the horrors and difficulties that Hill and Jordan face. ... This was a dark, gripping tale that I'd recommend to all fans of edgy, suspenseful police procedurals." Victoria Janssen

Euro Crime 4 of 5 Stars"The author, who has written two other series and many excellent ‘stand alone' novels, expertly pulls all the right rabbits out of various hats to mount up tension as both criminals--Vance and the serial killer--seem to be able to continue their plans while the police stumble around in the dark." Maxine Clarke

Daily Mail (UK) 3.5 of 5 Stars"Vance is the most ruthless and deadly of all McDermid's killers and his vengeance is terrible. But there are two other threads running through this novel which McDermid skilfully interplays with Vance's killing spree." Carla McKay

Guardian 3.5 of 5 Stars"If there's a weakness in the book's construction, it's that the tattoo murderer remains so much on the sidelines; at times it's almost as if the subplot has wandered in from a different novel. ... In the end, the drama of the linked investigations works so well because McDermid cares about her characters, and Hill and Jordan have a psychological depth that's rare in crime fiction." Andrew Taylor

Washington Post 1 of 5 Stars"I don't know how the prize-winning novelist who wrote that excellent book 10 years ago could have produced this meandering mess. ... McDermid's fans are well advised to skip this one and hope for better luck next time." Patrick Anderson 721957.jpg

Critical Summary

Val McDermid's crime novels have become the standard by which others are measured--a blessing or a curse, depending. A wizard at conjuring serial killers (do her friends and family know this?), McDermid relies on a "ruthless psychological scalpel" (Guardian) to lay bare the deepest fears and insecurities of the people charged with stopping society's most heinous criminals. Hill and Jordan--like Ian Rankin's Rebus or Henning Mankell's Kurt Wallander--are such compelling characters because of their personal flaws, not in spite of them, and they continue to grow along with the series. The Retribution isn't as good a novel as The Wire in the Blood, the first appearance of Jacko Vance. Still, McDermid dutifully--if not masterfully, this time--pulls off the novel's two parallel threads.