I had heard a lot of great things about award-winning author Val McDermid’s bestselling thrillers featuring psychologist Tony Hill and detective Carol Jordan, so when I got a chance to get an advance readers copy of The Retribution, I jumped on it. Val McDermid is a world-class crime writer and The Retribution is a chilling, gripping novel. This is Book #7 in this UK-based series. I probably could have deciphered some of the relationships better if I had read the previous novels; however, with a little sleuthing of my own, I was able to work them out well enough to have a good reading experience.
Because of the nature of this story, I don’t recommend it for anyone under 18 years old. If you’re a fan of Patricia Cornwell’s early novels or Laurie King’s series featuring San Francisco Detective Kate Martinelli then you know the kind of criminal mind featured in this novel – and how chilling such stories can be. If you’ve been reading the Hill/Jordan series, The Retribution harkens back to a prior novel, The Wire in the Blood. Warning: When reading The Retribution, don’t expect to get much sleep because it will likely keep you up at night, checking your closets and the locks on your doors.
Tony Hill is a clinical psychologist with an innate talent for profiling criminals. Carol Jordan is a police detective (DCI) whose team has amassed a very impressive record for putting away hardened criminals, thanks in no small part to Tony’s ability to profile them. Unfortunately sometimes success isn’t enough when it comes to short-sighted bureaucracies. Budget cuts are hitting this invaluable team and it’s being disbanded with its members scattered across different departments.
“But glumness set in as soon as she yanked the drawer open. It was stuffed full, case papers layered like geological strata. Cases that had been shocking, terrifying, heartbreaking and mystifying. Cases she’d probably never see the like of again.”
As they are packing things up, literally, a serial killer emerges. The only link between the victims is “MINE” carved into their wrists. The team decides they are going to go all out on this one as their last hurrah, to show the mucky-mucks one last time just how valuable having the team is and as a tribute to Carol’s leadership of it.
“’We’ve got something here that I think is right up your team’s steet,’ Reekie said. ‘I thought it best to bring you into it soon as. While the crime scene’s still fresh.’
‘That’s how we like them,’ Carol said. ‘But my squad’s winding up, you know.’
‘I’d heard you were working out your notice,’ Reekie said. ‘But you’re still in harness, right? Thought you might want to get your teeth into one last special one.’”
Among the hardened, nasty criminals Carol and Tony have put away is Jacko Vance. Jacko is a brilliant, twisted psycho-sexual serial killer who was once a British TV idol. They know he tortured and murdered 17 teenage girls; however, he was so good at covering his tracks that they could only get the evidence to convict him for one of those murders. Still that was enough and he was sentenced to life in prison with no hope of parole.
Jacko is a wealthy psychopath with the ability to charm and manipulate at an alarming level. What Carol and Tony don’t know is that Jacko has had a plan from the beginning, one he has carefully and successfully managed to carry out every day of his prison life. He has presented himself in prison as a model inmate, done favors for other inmates, and assessed the weaknesses in inmates, guards and staff, and taken careful advantage of them. The result is that he’s been removed from his maximum security prison and has been placed into a medium-security facility for rehabilitated, model inmates who expect to be paroled or released soon.
“So he’d watched and waited, gathering data and evaluating it, figuring out where the possibilities offered the best chance of success…It really hadn’t taken long to find the perfect pressure point.”
Jacko and his inside accomplice, Jason Collins, have planned everything. Collins is dying of cancer and his biggest concern is that his family will be destitute even though he is scheduled to be released soon. Jacko is wealthy and has pledged to provide them with income for life, a pledge he plans to keep. They both know that even when Collins is caught, he will still be released for compassionate reasons when he is closer to death so his penalty for helping will be essentially non-existent.
On the day Collins is to go out for a day visit, the stage is set and everything works like a charm. Jacko simply walks out to freedom with no questions asked and climbs into the taxi sent for Collins, completing Stage 1 of his plan.
“He couldn‘t help wondering how long it would take before someone noticed Jason Collins was still on the Therapeutic Community Wing. And Jacko Vance wasn’t. Before they understood that one of the most notorious and prolific serial killers the UK had ever produced was on the loose. And keen to make up for lost time.”
Prison has taught Jacko how to be an even better criminal than he was before, and he was practically unstoppable before. He is certain he can implement his plan for retribution and go on to live a very happy life, torturing and murdering with even greater cunning and skill than he did before. Of course his retribution list is a long one but it wouldn’t be complete without Tony Hill’s and Carol Jordan’s names. He has very special plans for them and he knows no one can stop him.
The Retribution kept me up at night. I’m kind of squeamish and I had to put this story down several times. I am curious like a cat though, and I love a masterfully written story, so I kept picking it back up. I had to know what happened. I found it very chilling. To me, novels like this are more horrifying than horror stories because they are so realistic. I have to say it was one hell of a roller coaster ride and I was the one in the back row screaming my head off through most of it. If you’re into that kind of novel, go for it!
The Retribution was released on January 3, 2012, so it should be available from your favorite bookseller below. Just click on the button to go there to get it.
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