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The Retribution
by Val McDermid

Release Date: 1st Sep 2011
Publisher: Little Brown
ISBN: 978 1 4087 0319 9
RRP: £18.99

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The scariest serial killer ever created just got out of jail and has set his eyes on revenge... Welcome back Jacko Vance...

I’m an enduring fan of the TV series: Wire in the Blood, and will forever see Dr Tony Hill as Robson Green. So, when it appeared as though McDermid was wrapping up the novel series in Fever of the Bone; it felt like the end of an era… and then Jacko Vance came back.

Not surprisingly, The Retribution centres around Vance’s daring and imaginative escape from prison – made contemptuously easy by being irresponsibly moved to a “Therapeutic Centre” – and his subsequent headlong collision course with Dr Tony Hill’s nearest and dearest. As retribution goes, Vance’s is a stellar display of overkill; lashings of blood and insanely twisted acts of petty vengeance intermingled with the hair-raisingly creepy.

Jacko Vance isn’t the only serial killer making waves for DCI Jordan and her team. Bradfield has fallen prey to a killer with a particular taste for murdering prostitutes. Curiously, his modus operandi dramatically changes with each killing, except for the chilling marker “Mine” he places on each of the bodies. Perhaps it is sheer desensitisation that the goriness fails to provoke a reaction, but I suspect it is the rapacious nature of Vance’s bloody advance that overshadows all else. McDermid gives the reader nowhere to hide; her idea of stepping of the gas is to fall back onto an entirely different killer whose bloodlust is embedded in a perverse control that has been thwarted. A bold ending sees Vanessa Hill reasserting herself as Queen of Knives.

This is a book that contrary to usual, I found I could put down. The intensity, Tony Hill’s emotional investiture in his relationship with DCI Jordan, the barrenness of Vance’s empathy bucket – I needed repose - a respite from the eerie tendrils of Vance’s psychopathic nature and the increasing devastation wreaked on Tony Hill. Emotionally potent, carefully constructed to maximise effect and as always, offering a disturbing insight into the mind of a psychopath; McDermid outshines her contemporaries in her analytical, probing style that cuts to the bone.

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