Sunday, January 22, 2012


    If you think you’ve read about the epitome of serial killers, the worst, the baddest, do find a copy of Val McDermid’s 25th crime novel, The Retribution.  The latest in her pairing of Detective Chief Inspector Carol Jordan and clinical psychologist, Tony Hill, features a return appearance by Jacko Vance, one of the most heinous murderers in literary fiction.  Once “the most popular presenter on British TV and a world class sportsman”, Vance had joyfully slain 17 teenage girls and a police officer.” 

    Jordan and Hill who were largely responsible for his capture and incarceration cannot get him out of their minds although they know he’s been safely tucked away in jail for 12 years.  Not.  He has just pulled off an amazing escape, and is bent on avenging himself, punishing his enemies.  Of course, Jordan and Hill top that list.  Vance is a brilliant psychopath - how will that vengeance take place?  Ah, therein lies one of McDermid’s many gifts - a master of the elements of surprise and insights into  criminal minds she has crafted a stunning thriller that offers not one but two vicious murderers.

    In addition to Vance there is a serial killer doing away with women who walk the streets.  He disposes of them by different means - the only clue being a tattoo “Mine” on the wrist of each victim.

    Suspense mounts as Jordan and Hill begin to realize they may have no idea of  how to catch Vance as they can’t guess where or who  he will strike next - he changes appearances adroitly, takes devilish chances.

    McDermid segues easily between both cases allowing glimpses of Vance’s mind as well as those of his victims.  The author’s imagination knows no bounds; she dazzles with her perceptions The Retribution is a crackerjack thriller penned  by a consummate wordsmith.

    - Gail Cooke.

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