Some 12 years ago, unorthodox police profiler Dr Tony Hill and his close friend detective chief inspector Carol Jordan managed to unmask and convict Jacko Vance.
Shrewd, manipulative and charming, Vance is the killer of 17 teenage girls, murderer of a serving police officer, and was once voted the sexiest man on British TV. He has spent the intervening years planning a dreadful revenge on those he feels most responsible for his incarceration, and he is the one criminal of whom Tony Hill is truly terrified.
Now, Vance has somehow organised a daring escape from prison and is on the loose, intent, Hill is convinced, on bringing maximum pain and suffering to both him and Carol Jordan.
But DCI Jordan has other pressing concerns. Budgetary restrictions have seen the break-up of her carefully assembled crack MIT (Major Incident Team) and she and Tony are leaving Bradfield for good, but there is one final case to be solved, a desperate hunt for a serial killer who is targeting prostitutes.
Each crime has a very different and horrible modus operandi, the only evidence linking the killings is a crude tattoo, "MINE", imprinted on the wrist of each victim.
Then, much sooner than anyone could have imagined, Jacko Vance strikes and commits a crime so devastating that it drives a seemingly unbridgeable chasm between Hill and Jordan and leaves both struggling for their sanity.
The Retribution is Val McDermid's 25th crime novel, and the seventh featuring Hill and Jordan. Jacko Vance featured in the second of these, The Wire in the Blood, published in 1997, which became the springboard for a popular ITV drama series running from 2002 to 2009.
The delicately balanced and walking-on-eggshells relationship between brilliant but borderline-suffering-from-Asperger's-Syndrome Tony Hall and recovering alcoholic Carol Jordan has been wonderfully maintained over the series, and McDermid, pictured below, never pulls her punches in her graphic descriptions of the evils men (and women) inflict on each other.
Born in Kircaldy in Scotland, McDermid (left) has won just about every thriller award going, including the CWA Cartier Diamond Dagger last year.
She has a son and a dog and lives with her wife in England.