In the most recent of the Tony Hill novels, McDermid again takes us into the dark recesses of the psychotic mind of not one but two criminals. One is a throwback to earlier work that Dr. Hill, a
law enforcement profiler, assisted Detective Inspector Carol Jordan with, the imprisoning of Jacko Vance. On the eve of D.I. Jordan’s murder, the investigative team having broken up and reassigned,
news comes that Vance has escaped from jail. Not only was there a murderer on the loose but he was looking for retribution on all and sundry who helped put him away.
While aiding in his capture and ducking his advances against them, family and their friends, Jordan’s team is asked to assist in solving what appears to be a serial killer that is attacking hookers, the regular street girls. Three have died so far and Hill has to try to get inside of the murderer’s head before the fourth one is found, bearing the tattoo, MINE, on one of their wrists. The deaths have all been so dissimilar in patterns: a drowning, crucifixion,and dismemberment, that without the tattoo they may never have been linked. When Hill finds the common link, the murder team heads in to arrest the suspect, but will they be too late.
Meanwhile Vance is playing havoc at his ex-wife’s home and is off on his own killing spree as Jordan and Hill stay close on his heels. When the deaths hit home, Jordan snaps, blaming Hill, and the eggshell membrane of their potential relationship is ripped, possibly beyond repair. Never before have I found two such unlikable protagonists as the uptight Jordan and the needy, clinging mess that Hill has become, actually mesh so finely that throughout all the flaws of their stuttering lives, the story still flows well.
Hats off to McDermid. Her storytelling ability is outstanding and “Retribution” is a top-drawer tale.