The Torment of Others is a salutary reminder what an asset to British crime fiction Val McDermid is. Her first books with journalist Lindsay Gordon as heroine gave hints of the talent that was to mature so impressively--and the subsequent series with the resourceful private eye Kate Brannigan demonstrated a sharper eye for the harder edges of society. But the best was just around the corner. McDermid's third sequence with clinical psychologist profiler Tony Hill was something of a quantum leap: as well as forging one of the most memorable figures in contemporary crime fiction with mildly eccentric Hill, McDermid added a degree of psychological acuity that made the earlier books seem like warm-ups for the main event.
The latest outing for Hill, The Torment of Others, also features McDermid's other richly realised creation, DCI Carol Jordan, and the author carries her familiar protagonists into truly unsettling new areas. This time, Hill is coping with a return to practical clinical profiling after a frustrating spell as an academic. And there's another major complication for him: his ex-partner Carol Jordan is no longer sure she wishes to be in charge of a team after the brutal sexual assault she suffered during undercover work. But she is persuaded to do so--and realises that one of her main tasks will be to create a cohesive unit.
A dead woman discovered in a sexual position on a bloody mattress, appears to be the victim of a killer the team knows all about: the monstrous Derek Tyler, who had carried out similarly bloody work two years before. However, forensics have landed Tyler in a mental institution--does this mean that Hill and Jordan are searching for a murderer who is copying the techniques of the psychotic Tyler?
While this may not be the best starting point for those new to McDermid, enthusiasts will find all the key elements are firmly and satisfyingly in place. --Barry Forshaw