Hill-Jordan #7, or in a way Wire in the Blood: The Sequel. The original The Wire in the Blood, back in 1997, was top-notch in its time but this latest one is rather ordinary compared to what's out there these days.
There are two stories going on here. The main one revolves around the prison escape of life-termer Jacko Vance and his immediate lust for retribution against those who locked him up some twelve or more years ago - profiler Tony Hill and DCI Carol Jordan of course. Bookending this plot is another that could possibly have been padded out to become a fully-fledged novel on its own, involving a number of murders of prostitutes by a serial killer. There is no link between the two, other than the fact that Carol Jordan's team of detectives has to deal with both. Jacko Vance and his murderous exploits occupy the bulk of the page space, with Jordan deeply involved not only as a cop but on a shockingly personal level as well. Tony Hill has his fingers in both camps, and as is often the case gets inside the minds of both killers remarkably quickly and predicts what will happen before it actually does. Well, almost - he makes a few mistakes, but no-one's perfect, eh?
Having watched the TV series Rizzoli & Isles a few days ago, I was reminded how similar Tess Gerritsen's 'The Apprentice' is to Val McDermid's latest - a killer from a previous novel escapes from prison and returns to his killing ways, with the same leading character as before the object of his provocation. I'm disappointed that a writer as good as McDermid has to resort to digging up old characters (and doubtless playing on the success of her own TV series, The Wire in the Blood) and coming up with a story that has more than a few similarities with works by peer-group authors in years gone by. The Retribution is well written and contains good character development, but the meat and bones of it lack originality. The best thing about it is the dust-jacket for the hardback edition - I just love it. Superb colours and perfectly capturing the mood.
But as a McDermid fan I have to confess to being disappointed with the story offered here. I love tales of retribution so I had the highest of hopes before reading it, the journey and the destination were a let-down however. Not only that, but the conclusion was plain absurd, and gave the impression of being rushed. Anyone completely new to Val McDermid will probably like this more than her fans will, at least that's my take on it. For the many of us who have followed Carol Jordan and Tony Hill down the years, though, this seems a rather contrived patchwork of old ideas and commercial desperation. It's not bad, not at all, but this author is capable of so much better. She reached a peak with her standalone A Place of Execution and hasn't done anything to match it since - and that's more than ten years and ten novels ago.
Val McDermid has stated that Jacko Vance, a TV celebrity with a secret lust for torture, murder and under-age girls who featured in The Wire in the Blood as well as the novel reviewed here, is based on her direct personal experience of interviewing Jimmy Savile
Retribution-1. Something justly deserved; recompense.
2. Something given or demanded in repayment, especially punishment.
Jacko Vance, a serial killer of seventeen teenage girls, and a police officer, has escaped from prison where he was sentenced to life. He was once a British Television Presenter and an almost Olympian athlete. He may be the most diabolical and ruthless killer that Val McDermid has introduced to her many readers. Jacko was introduced in the second book by DCI Carol Jordan, leader of the MIT, or 'minorities integration team'. She is stationed in northeast England in the city of Bradfield. She also introduced us to Tony Hill, a psychological profiler, who has appeared along with DCI Jordan in the past six books, Val McDermid is one of the more inventive and exciting mystery thriller writers from the UK. Her name excites visions of her readers sitting for long periods of time, red sleepless eyes, and extended periods of tachycardia.
We begin with Jacko Vance and his years in prison planning his escape. He has assistance from the outside, millions of dollars placed in off shore accounts, and people who believe he is innocent. He also has inside help from other prisoners who will do anything for money. His plans are so efficient, timely and well thought out that I found myself fascinated and entranced with his character. He tells his story from his personna, and we get to examine his thought process. He is a charmer and is able to convince almost any woman what he wants them to believe about him. Tony Hill knows him all too well, he and DCI Jordan were the essential law enforcement officers to put him in prison. Now he has escaped and they may be at the top of his list for Retribution.
At the same time, DCI Jordan, finds her department is about to be dismantled due to budgetary effects. She and her group have solved every serial murder case and other cases brought her way, and her boss feels she is too expensive. Well, she has shown him up in every case, that may be the real problem. DCI Jordan has found a new position in a city near-by. Tony Hill has also decided to move with her. They have a very complex relationship, loving friends, impotence by Tony is mentioned, and we wonder if the sexual failure has become the real problem for them. Whatever, they work well together, and seem to solve most of the cases that come their way. As one of DCI Jordan last cases comes a serial killer who is murdering prostitutes and leaving a tattoo on their wrists. Jordan and her team are on it. Simultaneously trying to hunt down Jacko before he kills again.
Val McDermid keeps the novel moving quite adeptly between both cases. She has the ability to convey such caring of her characters that we become very fond of them. We like the entire MIT team, and we dislike the villans and the upper echelons of police who try to hinder investigations so they won't show up as fools. It is the relationship between Carol and Tony that we most care about. They are both damaged souls from their past and their work. We think they belong together, but at the same time, wonder if they are too damaged to have a true relationship with anyone.
The ending left me feeling a little 'verklempt'. I am not sure where this series is going, but we do know that much is left unresolved, which opens the door for at least one more book with DCI Carol Jordan and Tony Hill.
Highly Recommended. prisrob 10-28-11
Fever of the Bone: A Novel
The Mermaids Singing (Dr. Tony Hill and Carol Jordan Mysteries)
I first discovered Val McDermid's Tony Hill & Carol Jordan series about 7 or 8 years ago and I have been a dedicated fan ever since. The Retribution is not only the latest in the series of seven books but it also reintroduces one of the serial killers from a much earlier book The Wire in the Blood - the evil and twisted Jacko Vance. To be honest, I could barely remember a thing about that book so it wouldn't make any difference to reading this book out of sequence if you haven't read McDermid's earlier ones yet.
Jacko Vance is clever - brillianlty clever and charming to boot. He has spent the last 16 year behind bars for the murder of a teenage girl (although he murdered many, many more but the prosecution couldn't prove it). In The Retribution, Vance escapes from jail (no spoiler - it's in the blurb) and is hell bent on payback to those who landed him in prison in the first place, including both Tony Hill and Carol Jordan. At the same time, another serial killer is on the lose in Bradfield killing prostitutes and Detective Carol Jordan's team set out to track him down.
The fact that both these stories are running in tandem with each other means that not enough time was devoted to either. The prostitute killer felt almost like an afterthought and his ultimate capture was bordering on eye-rolling. The sotry of Jacko Vance's escape and revenge would have been more than enough to keep us on the edge of our seats and, at times, I was. Waiting to see who would feed Carol Jordan's cat (it will make sense when you have read it, I promise) had my pulse racing overtime and trying to figure out who was next on his hit-list was great stuff. Jacko Vance is such a brilliantly evil character that despite his psychopathic nature, I wanted to spend more and more time in his company in the book; I had to know what he was thinking and planning on doing next and loved seeing how he doesn't see anything wrong with himself, just everyone else. However - and it's with a heavy heart that I write this, being such a fan - I felt that this book wasn't on a par with others in the series. In fact, Beneeth the Bleeding (two books earlier) was also somewhat lacking and I wonder if Tony Hill and Carol Jordan are finally running out of steam..... or maybe McDermid is?
Despite my overall enjoyment of the book, I was left with a feeling that the ending was rushed and that the prostitute killer had almost been forgotten and that Hill and Jordan were not acting completely in character. As for the end....it felt so implausable that I almost saw the character involved as a charicature of themselves, complete with moustache-twirling "mwahahahahaaa". The book also ends very abruptly, almost like the end of a chapter than the end of a book and it left me with a feeling of "now what?" rather than satisfaction.
Verdict: A really good read, just not a great one. I felt a little short-changed which is disappointing as I always look forward to the latest book in the series so much. Will I read the next? Absolutely!
on 3 November 2011
I first encountered Tony Hill and Carol Jordan in "The Mermaids Singing" as an abridged audiobook. The characters were quite groundbreaking for their time, in that they had very human flaws but still tried to do the right thing and bring the killer to justice. Since then I have read each installment in the series as it came out and have enjoyed them all.
"The Retribution" revisits Jacko Vance, the killer from "The Wire in the Blood"; this idea promises great things with his escape from prison and quest for revenge against the people that put him there, and the Bradfield police's efforts to catch him. The reality falls rather short and almost gives the impression that the series has run its course.
But not quite. There is much to like about "The Retribution". Ms McDermid serves up a believable cast of characters who we have come to care about over the course of the series, and the first third to half of the book is first-rate as it deals with the transition of the Bradfield team as Carol prepares to join another force as well as Vance's escape and a new, parallel serial killer investigation.
Unfortunately, after this point the story begins to get lost as Ms McDermid heaps suffering on to her characters and they begin to behave in ways that are cliched and also contrary to their nature as developed in the prior novels. The second part of the story seems to wander around uncertainly before heading for an ending that seemed rather rushed and again out of character for those involved. To give any more detail than this would spoil the story for those wishing to read it.
I did enjoy "The Retribution" but was left feeling less than satisfied. At several points in the story it seemed like this was going to be the novel where the series "jumps the shark", but the quality of Ms McDermid's writing and (supporting) characters save the day. If you are a fan of the series, then you will probably want to read it, but there are better episodes in the back catalogue. If you have not read any of the Hill/Jordan novels, do yourself a favour and start with "Mermaids". You could probably read this one in isolation, but much of the story (and the reviewers' criticisms here on Amazon) will be understood better with some background in the series.
How a reader will feel about this book will, I think, depend on whether they are willing to suspend belief about the escape of its central evil character, the serial killer, Jacko Vance, after 12 years in prison. He was put there by the comboined efforts of DCI Carol Jordan and her team, and the clinical psychologist, Dr Tony Hill. It will not come as a surprise that, once outside, Jacko is determined to punish all those that he believes are responsible for his incarceration.
If you have not yet read ‘The Wire in the Blood’ then I would suggest that you read that novel first. It must be said that, her 25th novel, McDermid shows her continuing ability to manage a highly complex narrative, or narratives, since in addition to the police hunt for this serial killer, members of Jordan’s team are seeking another serial killer who is murdering prostitutes and leaving behind a calling card. The balance between the two investigations is somewhat off kilter since there is so much focus on Jacko that I forgot once or twice about the other killings.
The background to this novel is the Yorkshire city of Bradfield, where Jordan has been in charge of the highly successful MIT, Major Investigation Team, whose efforts have been greatly helped by the assistance of Hill’s profiling abilities. Now internal competition and jealousy has led to MIT being disbanded and Jordan and Hill are soon to relocate to Worcester. The less interesting of Jordan’s current team can now be pruned and new characters introduced.
In general, the characters, old and new, are developed with great skill and the dialogue crackles. Characters tend to be at the extremes of the scale, and there was little attempt to explain why Jacko had ended up as he did. The oriental computer wizard, Stacey Chen, who is instrumental in solving one of the cases was surprisingly two dimensional, even to the degree of ‘her parents being trashed in the Cultural Revolution’. Jacko’s ex-wife and her current spouse also failed to leave the page despite quite a lot being written about them.
In this seventh novel featuring Jordan and Hill, their relationship, always ambiguous, is put under enormous pressure but their responses were truly believable, individuals pushed to the very edges of breaking down. As they approach this point, we understand how Hill’s childhood has blighted his later life and relationships. His mother, Vanessa, deserves all that comes to her.
Jacko has been constructed with almost superhuman characteristics, an athlete of Olympic standard, a TV star, wearer of a bionic arm, a multi-millionaire with limitless patience. As I say, if you are willing to accept this and his escape then the novel takes the reader on a compulsive journey over almost 500 pages with a trail of death and arson left in its wake. There is hardly a chapter that does not end with a question or an event that demands that the reader continue. This is true of the final chapter too, so that the wait for the next novel will be a long one for some readers.
McDermid ratchets up the tension in the last fifty pages and I was gripped. It almost made me forget about that prison escape – the reason for my 4* ranking.
Those captivated by McDermid will need no urging to read this book, indeed they probably have already done so. The general police procedural reader will feel the hand of a very fine writer at work, but perhaps will feel that at times the action becomes a tad formulaic?
The novel, of course, describes brutality against people and animals, and so potential readers should be warned. However, it is a credit to the author that her writing is so vivid and so disquieting.
on 5 November 2011
As a big fan of all of Mc Dermid's books I was really looking forward to this one..especially with the revival of Jacko Vance..but what a disappointment it was..crass plots like the acid in the cat food, Arson with horses, an extremely shallow and "also ran" sub plot and a ridiculously compacted and accelerated storyline in order to finish the book just made for a very boring and predictable read.
It left me wondering just what it was that was missing, that previous reads of hers so succeeded in providing.....My conclusion provided for lots of misgivings.....first.... that she is trying to compress the story into an already made for TV programme piggybacking on her already successful TV career
second.... Tony Hill's character has completely changed from the complexly flawed character he was in Wire in the Blood to the laughable stereotype portrayed (badly) by Robson Green in the Tv adaptation.
thirdly..as crime readers, more importantly Val Mc Dermid crime readers) we all like a bit of gruesome, measured, twisted, personal, macabre serial murder.. not the dis-associated revenge killings of Characters we have never either heard of nor care remotely about that are the subject of this book
fourth..and most important..there is just no anticipation..like in wire in the blood when the reader is just enthralled that the data crunching is suggesting that a well known celeb could be responsible for a series of gruesome murders....in this book, none of the victims are there enough to care, and the perpetrator has lost his Evil persona and gained a ludicrous hi-tech wannabe voyeur type status who doesnt want to be involved with his victims suffering like before.
And the End?.........just ridiculous
...Shame on you Ms Mc Dermid....really really not very good
on 24 October 2012
Having followed the Tony Hill series from the start, in addition to most of her standalone novels, I can't help but feeling a bit disappointed by Retribution, as opposed to McDermid's previous offerings.
To start with, I'm not really sure what the author is aiming to accomplish with this latest installment in the Tony Hill series.
If the idea was to introduce more "bang for your buck" by having us follow two, seperate, serial killer investigations, I think the book as a whole probably suffers. The transitions and interplay between the two investigations acts mainly to include all the players and justify Hill's involvement, but feels a bit staccato in places. More importantly, I felt that the development of both plots comes across as (unnaturally) compressed within the confines of a 400+ page book.
I would have liked to have seen a more progressive storyline, where instead we're presented with two fully developed premises, with the result reading a bit like connect-the-dots.
With the backdrop of the imminent lay-off of Carol's MIT, it seems natural to reintroduce a previous case/killer to complete the circle of the series so far, and also add a new serial killer to let the team go out in glory.
It all just comes across as a bit too premeditated (pun intended).
Nor does the book do much to further the ever-frustrated relationship between Tony and Carol, other than pave the way for a new round in the next installment.
My main contention, however is the conclusion of the two cases. One I found utterly unconvincing with regards to the motives of the killer. The other just kind of fizzles out.
That said, McDermid is always readable. Her style, language and the psychological insights and angles are present as always.
The dialogue, descriptions and settings are very believable. The violence just enough to be shocking without veering into the sensationalist.
If this review comes across as overly critical it is mainly because I have come to have such high expectations from this author based on her previous works. It might not be my favourite book, but McDermid is still a cut above most crime writers.
on 8 August 2012
Webster Dictionary defines "retribution" as a recompense, a literal payback, the dispensing or receiving of reward or punishment. I had hoped this seventh installment in Val McDermid's series about hardboiled DCI Carol Jordan and eccentric psychological profiler Tony Hill would be a reward but it was a punishment.
Here's what's going on: (1)One-armed serial killer Jacko Vance, once voted the sexist man on British TV, has been incarcerated for twelve years. He was convicted by Jordan's crack squad (with Tony's help) of murdering a teenage girl although he killed 17 girls and a police officer. He has escaped from a maximum security prison by charming the prison's female psychologist. (2)Two sex sellers in a red-light district called Temple Fields are murdered, one suffocated, the other drowned in a bathtub and dumped into a canal. A third prostitute is found dead in an inverted crucifixion position. The fourth victim is dismembered and left in a cardboard box behind a freezer food store.
West Mercia station in northern England is assigned the Vance escape case, and Jordan's squad at Bradfield, the prostitute murders. A lot to investigate: seven or eight murders, two arsons, a sulfuric acid bomb in a cat feeder, two dead stud horses, and a 1996 US television series called Maze Man that never made it to dvd. McDermid gives a lengthy, very lengthy, rehash of Jacko Vance's former life of crime although she had previously devoted an earlier novel to him. The rehash and some personal revelations cloud the scene and postpone the reveals until the last pages...very rushed endings for both cases but a nice twist and ironic one for the manhunt.
Hill and Jordan have always been more successful in solving crime than examining the nature of their great friendship, but McDermid muddies the water here with stark revelations. Carol Jordan is exposed as a closet alcoholic, downing mini-bar bottles of vodka from her squad-room filing cabinet. Tony Hills admits to being impotent and taking Viagra but manages to text a message to Carol using the "L" word.
Although McDermid's faithful readers from The Mermaids Singing on will be distressed, maybe it's time to say goodbye. After all, Robson Green who stars as Hill and produces Wire in the Blood, a British television series based on McDermid's characters, disposed of Jordan after the second season.
on 27 June 2012
I have looked through the other reviews of 'The Retribution', both good and bad, and find myself agreeing with a lot of what has been said by both camps.
I have been a fan of Ms McDermid now for around 5 years, having read all of the Tony Hill novels in that time, as well as many of her others. With this latest offering, I was looking forward (in a morbidly curious sort of way, of course) to the return of Jacko Vance, who I thought when he appeared previously was one of the most well constructed and scary fictional villians ever. And I wasn't disappointed - prison had not mellowed his outlook on the world! The reader is somehow drawn to his heinous exploits and left wondering what he will do next, what outrage he can perpetrate to surpass the previous one. However, I do tend to agree with the other reviewer who said that it is difficult to believe at times that a one-armed man could physically manage to do what Vance does. True, he has the best prosthetics that money can buy, but still a slight suspension of belief is occasionally required.
The other minor disappointment for me was the development in the relationship between the two main characters, Dr Hill and DCI Jordan - I won't use this review to spoil the plot, but I found Jordan's behaviour hard to understand at times and a little out of character based on our previous experiences of her. Obviously, it is up to the author to develop a character how she sees fit, and only the author knows what's going on inside the character's head - but still, I felt a little more explanation was needed in order for the reader to empathise with Jordan's apparent volte-face toward Hill.
Other people have also criticised the ending of the novel,and I can understand their comments to a certain extent, but it did not ruin it for me the way it seems to have done for some others.
All in all, such concerns aside, this was still a terrific read - of all her books, I cannot remember ever before racing through the pages so quickly in desperate anticipation of what was coming next. Which is really what crime fiction should be about, surely?
I look forward to the next novel, whether or not Ms McDermid chooses to revisit Tony Hill or go with one of her other memorable characters, I will certainly be buying it.
on 28 March 2012
Loved it! Yes, it is gory and very implausible in places. Tony is still weird but human, whereas Carol is cold. I found that the she became almost matter of fact about certain situations which should have affected her deeply. Moving the plot along at the expense of character perhaps.
I didn't see the twist at the end coming. The characters have been left dangling nicely for another book and I now want to go back and re-read some of the earlier books. Where will the next one be based - there's a lot of dashing about as if the author has got bored with certain locations and characters and is looking to move things on.