Detective Chief Inspector Carol Jordan and criminal psychologist Dr. Tony Hill are on the trail of a sadistic sex killer whose homicides replicate the dirty work of an imprisoned monster. Is the new killer a copycat or part of a fiendish conspiracy? A high-intensity psychological thriller.
The latest addition to McDermid's dark and gritty police procedurals, which have become even more popular thanks to the BBC America TV program The Wire in the Blood, finds the series' usual main protagonists, psychologist/profiler Dr. Tony Hill and Det. Chief Insp. Carol Jordan, joined by DI Don Merrick, elevated from the ranks of supporting players. Topping their docket are two serial killers: a child molester who murders and hides his young male victims and the Creeper, who tortures and slays prostitutes using the identical modus operandi of a killer firmly ensconced in a mental facility. McDermid's strength is the engaging and multidimensional characters he creates on both sides of the law. The book was a finalist for the CWA's 2004 Gold Dagger Award, but this audio abridgment is more interested in story than in character. There are several effective set pieces, notably an undercover sting that goes bad, resulting in the abduction and torture of a novice policewoman, and Merrick's life and death struggle with the child predator. At these points, Doyle's competent but undistinguished performance rises to the challenge. But by trimming away the novels' strongest element-its vibrant characters-the abridgment highlights the novel's weakest element: the less than credible sequences leading to the identity and capture of the Creeper. Simultaneous release with St. Martin's/Minotaur hardcover (Reviews, May 2). (June) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
A serial killer and a pedophile overtax the Bradfield Metropolitan Police. Detective Chief Inspector Carol Jordan, returning to work after her rape seven months ago, heads a Major Incident Team that includes one closeted and one declared lesbian, one man promoted beyond his abilities, another so competitive he snoops through co-workers' garbage, one by-the-book copper and the obligatory computer whiz. Profiler Dr. Tony Hill, who loves the sexually frozen Jones, helps the team track down (1) two missing boys presumed dead at the hands of a pedophile and (2) the copycat killer of two prostitutes whose signature matches that of Derek Tyler, a nutter sequestered in Bradfield Moor Secure Hospital. While they canvass the working girls' neighborhood and roam Internet child-porn sites for glimpses of the vanished boys, Hill grapples with the voice that apparently instructed Tyler to kill. Several unconvincing red herrings, including hospital director Aidan Hart, fall under suspicion. To entice the serial killer, Det. Paula McIntyre goes undercover as a prostitute, almost ending her life and Jones's career. The team and Hill effect a last-minute rescue, but Det. Insp. Don Merrick is less fortunate in his confrontation with the child molester in the wilds of Scotland. Hypnotic mind-control, sexual trauma overcome by a roll in bed with a good-looking hunk, and dead ends jump-started by fortuitous computer photos make McDermid's latest exercise in serial murder (The Distant Echo, 2003, etc.) less than compelling.
From the Publisher
“McDermid is unusual in her ability to keep the suspense high while constructing social mysteries that are far-ranging in their implications…McDermid brings to her mysteries an unusual capacity for compassion, both for victims and for the detectives whose lives are shattered tracking down the killers.” Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Smooth. Confident. Deeply satisfying. What else can you say about McDermid's writing? McDermid delivers again with Torment…the plot is chock-full of creepy goodness--elegant manipulation, buckets of blood, and an unholy webcam all come into play against the moody northern England winter--but the Jordan-Hill relationship remains the star of the show…it's a match made in heaven amid hell on earth.” Entertainment Weekly (Editor's Choice)
“It is hard to know what to praise first here: the impeccable plotting or the sharp social relevance of the narrative (a McDermid specialty). Most of all, though, it's the relationship between her two central characters that makes The Torment of Others work so well.” Daily Express
“One of McDermid's finest.” The Times
“Our leading pathologist of everyday evil...the subtle orchestration of terror is masterful.” The Guardian
Read an Excerpt
Find them in the first six hours or you're looking for a corpse. Find them in the first six hours or you're looking for a corpse. The missing children mantra mocked Detective Inspector Don Merrick. He was looking at sixteen hours and counting. And counting was just what the parents of Tim Golding were doing. Counting every minute that took them further from their last glimpse of their son. He didn't have to think about what they were feeling; he was a father and he knew the visceral fear lying in wait to assail any parent whose child is suddenly, unaccountably not where they should be. Mostly, it was history in a matter of minutes when the child reappeared unscathed, usually grinning merrily at the panic of its parents. Nevertheless it was history that left its mark bone deep.
And sometimes there was no relief. No sudden access of anger masking the ravages of ill-defined terror when the child reappeared. Sometimes it just went on and on and on. And Merrick knew the dread would continue screaming inside Alastair and Shelley Golding until his team found their son. Alive or dead. He knew because he'd witnessed the same agony in the lives of Gerry and Pam Lefevre, whose son Guy had been missing now for just over fifteen months. They'd dragged the canal, combed the parks and wasteland within a two-mile radius, but not a trace of Guy had ever surfaced.
Merrick had been the bagman on that inquiry, which was the main reason why he'd been assigned to Tim Golding. He had the knowledge to see whether there were obvious links between the cases. But beyond knowledge, his instincts already nagged that whoever had snatched GuyLefevre had now claimed his second victim.
He leaned against the roof of his car and swept the long curve of the railway embankment with binoculars. Every available body was down there, combing the scrubby grass for any trace of the eight-year-old boy who had been missing since the previous evening. Tim had been playing with two friends, some complicated game of make-believe involving a superhero that Merrick vaguely remembered his own sons briefly idolizing. The friends had been called in by their mother and Tim had said he was going down the embankment to watch the freight trains that used this spur to bring roadstone from the quarry on the outskirts of the city to the railhead.
Two women heading for the bus stop and bingo thought they'd caught a glimpse of his canary yellow Bradfield Victoria shirt between the trees that lined the top of the steep slope leading down to the tracks. That had been around twenty to eight. Nobody else had come forward to say they'd seen the boy.
His face was already etched on Merrick's mind. The school photograph resembled a million others, but Merrick could have picked out Tim's sandy hair, his open grin and the blue eyes crinkled behind Harry Potter glasses from any line-up. Just as he could have done with Guy Lefevre. Wavy dark brown hair, brown eyes, a scatter of freckles across his nose and cheeks. Seven years old, tall for his age, he'd last been seen heading for an overgrown stand of trees on the edge of Downton Park, about three miles from where Merrick was standing now. It had been around seven on a damp spring evening. . Guy had asked his mother he could go out for another half-hour's play. He'd been looking for birds' nests, mapping them obsessively on a grid of the scrubby little copse. They'd found the grid two days later, on the far edge of the trees, crumpled into a ball twenty yards from the bank of the disused canal that had once run from the railhead to the long-silent wool mills. That had been the last anyone had seen of anything connected to Guy Lefevre.
And now another boy seemed also to have vanished into thin air. Merrick sighed and lowered the binoculars. They'd had to wait for daylight to complete their search of the area. They'd all clung to a faint hope that Tim had had an accident, that he was lying somewhere injured and unable to make himself heard. That hope was dead now. The frustration of having no leads bit deep. Time to round up the usual suspects. Merrick knew from past experience how unlikely it was to produce results, but he wasn't prepared to leave any avenue unexplored.
He pulled out his mobile and called his sergeant, Kevin Matthews. 'Kev? Don here. Start bringing the nonces in.'
'No sign, then?'
'Not a trace. I've even had a team through the tunnel half a mile up the tracks. No joy. It's time to start rattling some cages.’
'How big a radius?'
Merrick sighed again. Bradfield Metropolitan Police area stretched over an area of forty-four square miles, protecting and serving somewhere in the region of 900,000 people.
According to the latest official estimates he'd read, that meant there were probably somewhere in the region of 3,000 active pedophiles in the force area. Fewer than ten percent of that number was on the register of sex offenders. Rather less than the tip of the iceberg. But that was all they had to go on. 'Let's start with a two-mile radius,' he said. 'They like to operate in the comfort zone, don't they?' As he spoke, Merrick was painfully aware that these days, with people commuting longer distances to work, with so many employed in jobs that kept them on the road, with local shopping increasingly a thing of the past, the comfort zone was, for most citizens, exponentially bigger than it had ever been even for their parents' generation. 'We've got to start somewhere,' he added, his pessimism darkening his voice.
He ended the call and stared down the bank, shielding his eyes against the sunshine that lent the grass and trees below a blameless glow. The brightness made the search easier, it was true. But it felt inappropriate, as if the weather was insulting the anguish of the Goldings. This was Merrick's first major case since his promotion, and already he suspected he wasn't going to deliver a result that would make anybody happy. Least of all him.
Copyright 2005 by Val McDermid