Book Review: THE RETRIBUTION by Val McDermid

This originally ran in Shelf Awareness and is reprinted here with permission.

For her seventh thriller featuring profiler Dr. Tony Hill and Detective Chief Inspector Carol Jordan, Val McDermid unleases not one but two serial killers. The first, Jacko Vance, is their worst nightmare from the past, someone they put away years ago in The Wire in the Blood. Vance escapes from prison and is hell bent on, well, retribution. Jordan and Hill have to predict and protect the people, including each other, they feel are most in danger, but Vance seems to be several steps ahead of them. Meanwhile, they also have to hunt another killer doing grisly things to prostitutes. The cases are solved in the end, but Hill and Jordan experience unfathomable loss along the way, and their relationship, as well as their lives, will never be the same.

As usual, McDermid doesn’t flinch from exploring the dark passages of humanity, if one can even call the killers human. Vance does something so revolting at one point that my stomach dropped to the floor, as if I were in an elevator plunging into hell. But McDermid’s deft prose, sprinkled with psychological insight and sparks of wit, makes it hard to turn away. She also keeps the pace humming along, which helps since a lot happens. The ending is a bit anticlimactic, and the story could probably do with less of Hill’s internal monologue about how much he cares for Jordan—a point that’s repeatedly and clearly established—but McDermid has thrown such huge obstacles into the pair’s already rocky path that it’ll be interesting to see where they go from here.

Nerd verdict: Gut-wrenching Retribution



  • Reply
    Benoit Lelievre
    January 31, 2012 at 7:16 am

    This is coming by mail to me anytime now (won a giveaway). Glad you liked it, Nerd. You and I often share similar tastes

  • Reply
    Janet Rudolph
    January 31, 2012 at 7:57 am

    Val talked about this book in great detail at the Lit Salon last week. Wish you could have been here. She was terrific. Yes, it will be interesting to see where Carol and Tony can go from here.

  • Reply
    Eric Edwards
    January 31, 2012 at 11:19 am

    I’ve been hearing so much about this series. Guess I’ll have to become a fan.

  • Reply
    Tea Time with Marce
    January 31, 2012 at 1:31 pm

    I am going to start The Mermaids Singing next but this one is getting amazing reviews, makes me want to pick it up now.

  • Reply
    Pop Culture Nerd
    January 31, 2012 at 7:27 pm

    Benoit—Let me know what you think!

    Janet—Oh, I bet she was terrific. She always is. Sorry I didn’t get to see it. What did you think of this book?

    Eric—You can start with this one if you’re not picky about reading in order. There’s enough of background that you won’t feel lost.

    Marce—Yes, do it! I’m always encouraging people to pick up whichever book grabs their fancy in any given moment (see above note to Eric). This drives my friends crazy, the ones who like to go in sequence.

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