The more crime fiction I read the more I find I love the genre. It’s not because I have some secret desire to become a serial killer but probably because on of the jobs I thought I might end up doing was to become a criminal profiler. It didn’t happen, but since I have read more and more crime novels I think I have found a way of living the dream vicariously through fiction. In Val McDermid’s series featuring psychologist Tony Hill, I think I have found the perfect outlet and so I was really looking forward to reading ‘The Retribution’ even if it meant jumping from his first case to his latest, and therefore breaking my rule of reading every series in order.
‘The Retribution’ is the seventh novel in what is becoming one of Val McDermid’s most popular series featuring psychologist Tony Hill and DCI Carol Jordan. Here the past comes back to haunt our two protagonists as Jacko Vance, a psychopath that Tony and Carol have dealt with before, escapes from prison with nothing but revenge on his mind.
That really is about as much of the plot as you can give away with this novel. It is fair to say that both Tony and Carol, along with his ex-wife Mickey, are high on the list of people who he wishes to seek vengeance. How he goes about his revenge isn’t the way you would think, he doesn’t want to kill his former foes, he wants to inflict as much hurt and devastation as he can on them. No one is safe and for once Tony Hill finds he can’t quite second guess this killer. If that wasn’t enough, there seems to be second serial killer on the loose too.
Is it wrong to say that I quite liked Jacko Vance as a psychopathic serial killer? I have a feeling it might be, and yet that is how I felt. I wouldn’t want to be his friend or anything, but I really liked reading him even when he was utterly evil. He really does the most awful things and yet I couldn’t help but admire his plotting and planning, which has been going on for years, and the way he utterly disregards emotion. He doesn’t really want to kill, yet he has to in order to inflict pain not on his victims but on those around them. It’s a very clever psychological twist and one that I found somewhat weirdly fascinating. Oh come on, don’t be shocked, people who read a lot of crime all think like that even if they don’t admit it.
I can’t really tell you how Tony and Carol’s relationship has changed in the series so far because I have to admit I have gone from the very first on, ‘The Mermaids Singing’, to this one, with a quick pit stop at a McDermid standalone in the form of ‘Trick of the Dark’, because I am interviewing Val in just over a week. I can say that should you have missed any of the other series, including Jacko Vance’s previous appearance as I had, you can still read this as a story all of its own. It actually made me want to turn straight to ‘Wire in the Blood’. If I had one small criticism then it would be that the second serial killer did seem to play second fiddle to Jacko. I would have liked a little more of that storyline, I would have been happy to read another 50 or so pages to see it happen. It’s a small niggle though because that storyline does add something in its own right too.
I found ‘The Retribution’ a truly great crime novel. You have an utter psychopath in Jacko Vance, and one who doesn’t do the obvious and really keeps people on their toes and scared. You also have a great mind in the form of Tony Hill and there continues to be an interesting relationship between him and Carol Jordan (which gets really tested in this book). You had both the mixture of knowing one killer but never knowing who they would kill next and also a whodunit with the other serial killer which I liked a lot and didn’t guess at all. I think this shows what a great crime writer Val McDermid is, along with the fact that never in my life did I think I would be so on the edge of my seat as to who would feed a cat. You’ll have to read the book to know what I mean, so go on, go and grab a copy.
I am now very excited about interviewing Val McDermid again (as I have already for We Love This Book) when she comes with MJ McGrath to Bookmarked on Monday the 12th of September, if you can make it do I think its going to be a great night. I am now wondering if I can somehow fit ‘Wire in the Blood’ and another of her standalone’s in before then. What do you think?