I discovered Val McDermid’s books on the small screen, via the excellent ITV series Wire in the Blood. I can’t imagine a better actor to play Tony Hill than Robson Green, and when I started reading the books, Tony quickly became one of my favorite series characters. To be fair, the character of Carol Jordan is as deep, complex, and fascinating as any McDermid has created, but for me, these stories have always been Tony’s.
THE RETRIBUTION, the seventh entry in the Tony Hill/Carol Jordan series, brings back a villain more vivid than Hannibal Lecter in the form of Jacko Vance, whom we first met in WIRE IN THE BLOOD. Jacko is terrifying in no small measure because McDermid doesn’t “overdraw” him, providing exactly the right amount of detail about his background and motivation (and you won’t be lost if you haven’t yet read WIRE IN THE BLOOD). He is, at every level, disturbing.
Jacko’s been safely ensconced in prison since Carol and Tony put him there. When he escapes, he does so with a vengeance, and in a mind to mete out the retribution of the title. It’s difficult for me to describe the arc of the story without giving away too much, and so I’ll say just that I was alternately petrified, heartbroken, angry, and fascinated as I read.
One of the (many) things I love about McDermid’s books is that they don’t have just the one story. In this one, Jacko’s escape is but one case occupying Tony, Carol, and the crack police team. We also see the dark side of “corporate” politics (in this case, the corporation being the police department), and the realism with which these shenanigans are painted made me squirm.
My point here is that THE RETRIBUTION isn’t just one story. It is several, and each is woven with its neighbors in such a fashion as to make the book really and truly difficult to put down.
I realize that many readers are reluctant to start a series with its most recent book especially when that book is closely tied to a predecessor, but as with all beautifully crafted stories, THE RETRIBUTION doesn’t require you to have read the others. Of course, I would recommend them all…and if you’re inclined to start at the beginning, all the better, but it’s not absolutely necessary.
All of the series stories I read include some books I like more than the others. The Tony Hill/Carol Jordan series is no exception. For example, I enjoyed last year’s FEVER OF THE BONE, but it was not my favorite of the series. And THE RETRIBUTION now occupies that spot.
And the ending of THE RETRIBUTION? Simply one of the best story endings ever.
Not a book trailer, but a super awesome video: