Cannonball Read 5, Book 98: The Retribution by Val McDermid

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Val McDermid is one of those authors who, for years, I was all “I should read her books”. The TV show Wire In The Blood is one that I knew loads of people watched but somehow I never watched it, nor did I ever get round to reading it. Then, by chance, I picked up a copy of Fever Of The Bone, which is actually book six in the Tony Hill & Carol Jordan series. I loved it and went back and started at the beginning. I read the first two books but then life got in the way and books 3-5 are currently languishing unread on my very large “to read” shelf over on Goodreads.

The reason that this, book 7, has jumped the queue is it features the return of the criminal who is arguably McDermid’s greatest evil creation. Jacko Vance was the focus of book 2, which gave the TV show its name, Wire In The Blood. He is pure unalloyed evil, super intelligent and entirely without any redeeming characteristics. He has been in prison since Hill & Jordan successfully arrested him for the murder of teenage girls around twelve years ago. At the start of this book, he masterminds an escape from prison and begins to exact a long planned revenge on the people he holds responsible for thwarting his enjoyment previously.

It is, to say the least, a tense and exciting read. There is a secondary plot centring on a possible serial murderer targeting prostitutes which is equally as gripping (and as gruesome) as the main Vance storyline. Jordan’s team is being disbanded and it’s their final case before the axe falls. So there’s a similar sense of urgency with both cases. Vance’s retribution, when it starts to play out, is so horrific, so calculated, that I found myself thinking there would be some last minute swerve, that his plan wouldn’t be carried out. I underestimated McDermid there. She has no problem being absolutely brutal to characters she clearly cares about as much as the reader.

The Retribution doesn’t end so much as just come to a stop. The effects of Vance’s evil plan will clearly reverberate through future instalments of the Hill & Jordan series. The eighth book, Cross & Burn was published a month ago, picking up directly where McDermid left us. Given how unflinching and brilliant I thought this book was, I will be carrying on with the series at the absolute first opportunity.

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