The story focuses on the prison escape of increasingly legendary McDermid villain Jacko Vance, and his aim of wreaking revenge on the people who were responsible for his capture and imprisonment. More cunning and deadly than ever, Vance is hell-bent on bringing pain to the lives of Tony Hill and Carol Jordan, the people who stopped his murderous acts originally. At the same time, a serial killer is murdering prostitutes in increasingly gruesome ways. Carol Jordan’s MIT team are being disbanded and the chance to catch this killer is seen as a way to go out on a high. But with Jordan and Hill distracted by the Vance escape, will a serial killer be free to carry on with his nefarious plans…
The Retribution marks the return of one of Val McDermid’s greatest villains, Jacko Vance. There’s always a worry when characters such as these are returned, that expectations won’t be met. However, McDermid dispels all fears within a couple of pages.
The plot, although slow to really kick into high gear, runs along at a great pace from a third of the way in, taking many twists and turns along the way. The relationship between Tony Hill and Carol Jordan takes an unexpected turn (to constant readers) and it will be interesting to see what direction is taken with them if they return in another novel. The serial killer story which runs alongside the main Jacko Vance storyline, is an interesting sideplot, which would be the main focus in other novels.
The most important aspect of this book (and many of McDermid’s other novels) is the characters. Whilst you can tell McDermid has real feelings for these characters, she is not afraid to destroy parts of their lives. The fact each character has their own background means that as a reader you cannot help but feel empathy for even minor people within the story. For these and many other reasons, McDermid is one of my favourite character writers.
The only negative aspect I can think of in The Retribution, is the ending. Abrupt and ambiguous, it will possibly upset some people. But, not this reader. I loved the last 10 pages and cannot wait to see what happens next. There are some gruesome moments, but it’s never glorifying. They just add to the growing unease you feel whilst reading.
The way in which McDermid writes, means she could be describing names in a phone book and still make it an exciting read. The Retribution is as excellent as previous novels in the series – heart wrenching and emotional, whilst still maintaining a horrific feel to it, to keep the reader interested. I couldn’t recommend Val McDermid more to crime fiction lovers!
CFL Rating: 5 Stars