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by Val McDermid
HarperCollins, May 2004
390 pages
ISBN: 0007142889

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Carol Jordan, recovering from the rape she suffered on the continent after her superiors withheld vital information from her during an undercover operation, (THE DISTANT ECHO) has immured herself in the maze-like confines of The Barbican, in London.

John Brandon, her old boss on the East Yorkshire force, arrives to ask her to come back and work with him on the newly-formed Bradfield Metropolitan Police Force. He wants her back to set up a major incident squad that will deal with serious crimes and cold cases.

Meanwhile, Tony Hill has resigned his teaching job at St Andrews and has taken a part-time job at the Bradfield mental hospital. He knows that Carol won't be able to resist coming back to work, and he is right. Jordan returns and bunks in her old apartment with her sister and brother-in-law to whom she sold the apartment.

The first cold case they start on is the recent disappearance of a young boy. The case is only six months old, but, unless the child is found right away, the chances are he has been killed. And there had been a similar case 15 months earlier.

While they are working on that one, a prostitute is murdered in a particularly gruesome manner. The strange thing is that there really are no copycat killers, but this murder is identical to four which happened two years earlier. The perpetrator of those crimes is locked up in the Bradfield Moor hospital. He hasn't spoken in two years, so Tony takes him on to try to get some clues to pass on to Carol's team.

McDermid gets into the psyche of her characters as no one else can. We read what the voice tells the murderer. Jordan has to be boss to a bunch of maverick detectives, at least one of whom keeps testing her. She has to contend with two serious cases at once, find a place to live, and try to get over the lingering effects of the rape. Tony Hill just wants to be near her so he can do whatever he can to help.

Although THE MERMAIDS SINGING was really much scarier, THE TORMENT OF OTHERS is a much stronger novel. We know Hill and Jordan by now and we watch their relationship as it matures. This is McDermid's finest book since A PLACE OF EXECUTION.

Reviewed by Barbara Franchi, August 2004

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