International bestselling crime writer Val McDermid’s work speaks for itself: her books have sold millions of copies worldwide, won numerous accolades, and attracted a devoted following of readers around the globe.
Cross and Burn picks up where The Retribution left off: following the best crime-fighting team in the UK—clinical psychologist Tony Hill and police detective Carol Jordan—who when we last saw them were barely speaking, and whose relationship will now be challenged even further. But just because they’re not talking doesn’t mean the killing stops.
Women are being murdered—ones who bear an unsettling resemblance to Carol Jordan. And when the evidence begins to point in a disturbing direction, thinking the unthinkable seems the only possible answer. Cornered by events, Tony and Carol are forced to fight for themselves and each other as never before.
“McDermid is as smooth a practitioner of crime fiction as anyone out there . . . She’s the best we’ve got.” —The New York Times Book Review
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He woke every morning with a prickle of excitement. Would today be the day? Would he finally meet her, his perfect wife? He knew who she was, of course. He'd been watching her for a couple of weeks now, growing used to her habits, getting to know who her friends were, learning her little ways. How she pushed her hair behind her ears when she settled into the driver's seat of her car. How she turned all the lights on as soon as she came home to her lonely flat.
How she never ever seemed to check in her rear-view mirror.
He reached for the remote controls and raised the blinds on the high skylight windows. Rain fell in a constant drizzle from an unbroken wall of featureless grey cloud. No wind to drive the rain, though. Just a steady downpour. The sort of weather where people hid under umbrellas, heads down, paying no attention to their surroundings, faces invisible to CCTV.
First box ticked.
And it was a Saturday. So she'd have no appointments booked, no meetings arranged. Nobody to notice an unplanned absence. Nobody to raise an alarm.
Second box ticked.
Saturday also meant the chances were much higher that her plans would take her somewhere suitable for their meeting. Somewhere he could follow the first steps of the carefully worked-out plan to make her his perfect wife. Whether she wanted that or not. But then, what she wanted was irrelevant.
Third box ticked.
He took a long slow shower, savouring the sensual delight of the warm water on his skin. If she played her cards right, she'd get to share it with him, to make a pleasant experience even more rewarding for him. What could be better than starting the day with a blow job in the shower? That was the sort of thing that a perfect wife would be thrilled to perform for her man. It had never occurred to him before, and he happily added it to his list. It had never occurred to the first one either, which was typical of her many failures to meet his high standards.
New tick box added to the mental list. It was important to be organised.
He believed in organisation, in preparation and in taking precautions. An outsider, looking at how much time had passed since that bitch had thwarted him, might have thought he'd given up on his quest. How wrong that outsider would have been. First, he'd had to deal with the mess she'd made. That had taken a ridiculous amount of time and he begrudged her every second of it. Then he'd had to be clear about his objectives.
He'd considered trying to buy what he wanted, like his father had done. But pliable though the Asian women were, it sent the wrong message to turn up with one of them on your arm. It screamed inadequacy, perversion, failure. The same went for mail-order brides from the former Soviet empire. Those harsh accents, the chemical blonde hair, the criminal tendencies ingrained like grime – that wasn't for him. You couldn't parade one of them in front of your workmates and expect respect.
Then he'd looked at the possibilities of internet dating. The trouble with that was you were buying a pig in a poke. And he didn't want to poke a pig. He sniggered to himself at his cleverness, his skill with language. People admired that about him, he knew. But the even bigger trouble with internet dating was that there were so few options if things went wrong. Because you'd left a trail a mile wide. It took effort, skill and resources to be truly anonymous online. The risk of exposure with one split second of inattention or error was too high for him to take. And that meant if it all went wrong, he had no way to make her pay the proper price for her failure. She'd simply retreat to her old life as if nothing had happened. She'd win.
He couldn't allow that. There had to be another way. And so he'd conceived his plan. And that was why it had taken so long to reach this point. He'd had to develop a strategy, then examine it from every possible angle, then do his research. And only now was he ready to roll.
He dressed anonymously in black chain-store jeans and polo shirt, carefully lacing up the black work boots with their steel toecaps. Just in case. Downstairs, he made himself a cup of green tea and munched an apple. Then he went through to the garage to check again that everything was in order. The freezer was turned off, the lid open, ready to receive its cargo. Pre-cut strips of tape were lined up along the edge of a shelf. On a card table, handcuffs, a taser, picture cord and a roll of duct tape sat in a row. He put on his waxed jacket and stowed the items in his pockets. Finally, he picked up a metal case and headed back to the kitchen.
Fourth and fifth boxes ticked.
He gave the garage one final look, saw he'd trailed in some leaf debris last time he'd been in there. With a sigh, he put down the case and fetched a brush and dustpan. Women's work, he thought impatiently. But if everything went right today, soon there would be a woman to do it.CHAPTER 2
Dr Tony Hill shifted in his seat and tried to avoid looking at the wreckage of her face. 'When you think of Carol Jor dan, what comes into your mind?'
Chris Devine, still formally a detective sergeant with Bradfield Metropolitan Police, cocked her head towards him, as if to compensate for a degree of deafness. 'When you think of Carol Jordan, what comes into your mind?' Her voice had a deliberate teasing quality. He recognised it as a bid to deflect him from his line.
'I try not to think about Carol.' In spite of his best efforts, the sadness seeped to the surface.
'Maybe you should. Maybe you need to go there more than I do.'
The room had grown dim as they'd talked. The day was dying outside but the light seemed to be leaching out of the room at a faster rate. Because she couldn't see him, it was safe for once to let his face betray him. His expression was the opposite of the lightness of his tone. 'You're not my therapist, you know.'
'And you're not mine. Unless you're here as my mate, I'm not interested. I've told them I'm not wasting my time with a counsellor. But then, you know that, don't you? They'll have told you the score. You're still their go-to guy. The rabbit they pull out of the hat when all the other magic tricks have fallen flat on their arse.'
It was amazing she didn't sound more bitter, he thought. In her shoes, he'd be raging. Lashing out at anyone who sat still long enough. 'It's true, I do know you've refused to cooperate with the therapy team. But that's not why I've come. I'm not here to try and counsel you by the back door. I'm here because we've known each other for a long time.'
'That doesn't make us friends.' Her voice was dull, all animation stripped from the words.
'No. I don't really do friendship.' It surprised him how easy it was to be candid with someone who couldn't see his face or his body language. He'd read about the phenomenon but he'd never experienced it at first hand. Maybe he should try wearing dark glasses and feigning blindness with his more intransigent patients.
She gave a dry little laugh. 'You do a decent facsimile when it suits you.'
'Kind of you to say so. A long time ago, someone called it "passing for human". I liked the sound of that. I've been using it ever since.'
'That's pitching it a bit high, mate. What does the length of time we've known each other have to do with the price of fish?'
'We're what's left, I suppose.' He shifted in his chair, uncomfortable at the way the conversation was going. He'd come because he wanted to reach out, to help her. But the longer he sat here, the more he felt like he was the one who needed help. 'After the dust has settled.'
'I think you're here because you hoped that talking to me would help you understand whatever it is you're feeling,' she pointed out with a note of sharpness. 'Because I took the hit for her, didn't I? That's a closer bond than we ever had in all those years of working together.'
'I thought I was the psychologist here.' It was a weak response, barely a parry to her thrust.
'Doesn't mean you can figure out what's going on in your own head. Your own heart, come to that. It's complicated, right, Doc? I mean, if it was only guilt, it would be easy, right? That'd make sense. But it's more than that, isn't it? Because there's a dark side to guilt. The rage. The feeling that it's just not fair, that you're the one left carrying the weight. The outrage because you're left with a sense of responsibility. That sense of injustice, it's like heartburn, like acid burning into you.' She stopped abruptly, shocked by her own figure of speech.
Her hand moved towards her face, stopping millimetres from the shiny red skin left by the acid booby trap that had been targeted at someone else. 'So, what does come into your mind when you think about Carol Jordan?' she persisted, her voice harsh now.
Tony shook his head. 'I can't say.' Not because he didn't know the answer. But because he did.CHAPTER 3
Even from behind, Paula McIntyre recognised the boy. She was a detective, after all. It was the kind of thing she was supposed to be capable of. All the more so when the person in question was out of context. That was where civilians fell down. Without context, they generally failed. But detectives were meant to make the most of their natural talents and hone their skills to the point where people were once seen, never forgotten. Yeah, right, she thought. Another one of those myths perpetuated by the double-takes of TV cops confronted by the familiar in unexpected circumstances.
But still, she did recognise the boy, even from the quarter-profile of her angle of approach. If she'd entered the station via the tradesmen's entrance – the back door from the car park – she'd have missed him. But this was her first day at Skenfrith Street and she didn't know the door codes. So she'd taken the easy way out and parked in the multi-storey opposite and walked in the front door, coming up behind the teenager shifting from foot to foot before the front counter. There was something about the set of his shoulders and the angle of his head that suggested defensiveness and tension. But not guilt.
She paused and tried to get the measure of what was going on. 'I understand what you're saying. I'm not stupid.' The boy's voice was miserable rather than aggressive. 'But I'm asking you to understand that this is different.' He lifted his shoulders in a small shrug. 'Not everybody's the same, man. You can't just go with one size fits all.' His accent was local but, in spite of his best attempts, unmistakably middle-class.
The civilian staffing the counter muttered something she couldn't make out. The boy started bouncing on the balls of his feet, all wound up and nowhere to go. He wasn't the sort of lad who would kick off, she thought she knew that. But that was no reason not to try and placate him. Keeping a lid on things wasn't the only point of getting to the bottom of what was bothering the punters.
Paula stepped forward and put a hand on the boy's arm. 'It's Torin, isn't it?' He swivelled round, his face startled and anxious. A thick mop of dark hair framed the pale skin of a teenage boy-cave dweller. Wide blue eyes with dark smudges beneath, a prominent wedge of nose, a narrow mouth with incongruous rosebud lips under the faintest shadow of what might one day become a moustache. Paula cross-checked the mental catalogue against her memory and ticked all the boxes. No mistake here.
The tightness round his eyes relaxed a little. 'I know you. You've been to our house. With the doctor.' He frowned, struggling for a memory. 'Elinor. From casualty.'
Paula nodded. 'That's right. We came round for dinner. Your mum and Elinor are mates from work. I'm Paula.' She smiled at the small grey man behind the counter as she produced her ID from her jacket pocket. 'Detective Sergeant McIntyre, CID – DCI Fielding's team.'
The man nodded. 'I'm telling this lad, there's nothing we can do for him till his mum's been missing for twenty-four hours.'
'Missing?' Paula's question was drowned by Torin McAndrew's frustrated riposte.
'And I'm telling this ...' He breathed heavily through his nose. '... this man that you can't treat every case the same because everybody's different and my mum doesn't stay out all night.'
Paula didn't know Bev McAndrew well, but she'd heard plenty about the chief pharmacist from Elinor Blessing, her partner and the senior registrar in Accident & Emergency at Bradfield Cross Hospital. And nothing she'd heard tended to contradict Bev's son's adamantine certainty. None of which would cut any ice with the civilian behind the counter.
'I'm going to have a chat with Torin here,' she said firmly. 'Have you got an interview room?' The man nodded towards a door on the other side of the barren waiting area. 'Thanks. Please call up to CID and let DCI Fielding know I'm on the premises and I'll be up shortly.'
He didn't look thrilled, but he did pick up the phone. Paula gestured with her thumb towards the interview room. 'Let's have a sit down and you can tell me what's going on,' she said, leading the way.
'Kay.' Torin followed her, shuffling his oversized trainers across the floor in the typical slouch of an adolescent who's still not quite accustomed to the margins of his body.
Paula opened the door on a tiny boxroom with barely enough space for a table and three steel-framed chairs upholstered in a zingy blue-and-black pattern. Seen worse, she thought, ushering Torin to a seat. She sat opposite him, pulling from her shoulder bag a spiral notebook with a pen rammed down its metal spine.
'Right then, Torin. Why don't you start at the beginning?'
Being stalled at the rank of Detective Constable had been the price Paula had willingly paid for membership of DCI Carol Jordan's Major Incident Team. So when that squad had been wound up, she'd applied for the first three-stripe job that had come up with Bradfield Metropolitan Police. It had been so long since she'd passed her sergeant's exams, she was afraid they'd make her resit.
This wasn't how she'd imagined her initiation into the rank of Detective Sergeant. She'd thought doing preliminary interviews would be someone else's scut work now. But then, that was the thing about being a cop. Not much ever turned out the way you imagined.CHAPTER 4
The blackout blinds did exactly what they were supposed to. And that was good, because pitch-black meant you didn't get shadow tricks setting your imagination on fire. The one thing Carol Jordan didn't need was anything to stimulate her imagination. She could manage quite enough on her own without any extra provocation.
It wasn't as if she was a stranger to bloody crime scenes. Most of her adult life had been punctuated by images of sudden violent death. She'd been confronted with victims of torture; banal domestic violence gone overboard; sexual sadism that was nothing to do with middle-aged, middle-class fantasy; pick your brutality of choice and Carol had seen its end result. Sometimes they'd kept sleep at bay, driven her to the vodka bottle to blur the outlines. But never for more than a few nights. Her need for justice had always stepped in, transforming horror into a spur to action. Those images became the engine that drove her investigations, the motivation for bringing killers to face the consequences of their crimes.
This time was different, though. This time, nothing diminished the power of what she'd seen. Not time, not drink, not distance. These days, there seemed to be a film running on a perpetual loop in her head. It wasn't a long film, but its impact wasn't dulled by repetition. The weird thing was that it wasn't simply a rerun of what she'd seen. Because she was in the film. It was as if someone had been right behind her with a hand- held camera, making a jerky home movie of the worst moment of her life, the colours slightly off, the angles somehow wrong.
It began with her walking into the barn, the view over her shoulder the familiar interior with its inglenook fireplace, exposed stone walls and hammer beams. Sofas she'd once lounged on; tables where she'd discarded newspapers, eaten meals, set wine glasses down; hand-stitched wall hangings she'd marvelled at; and a sweater she'd seen her brother wear a dozen times, casually thrown over the back of a chair. There was a crumpled T-shirt on the floor near the dining table, where the remains of lunch still sat. And at the foot of the gallery stairs, two uniformed bobbies in their high-vis jackets, one looking appalled, the other embarrassed. Between them, a concertina of fabric that might have been a skirt. Disconcerting, but not terrifying. Because film couldn't convey the stink of spilt blood.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Cross and Burn"
Copyright © 2013 Val McDermid.
Excerpted by permission of Grove Atlantic, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This is my first Val McDermid book. This was also the 8th book in this series(Tony/Carol) and I was able to pick it up and not even realize I missed the first 7, but I will be going back and checking out the first ones. Although the story seemed to revolve around the Tony/Carol storyline, it really was the story of Paula. Paula struggles to find her way after DCI Carol Jordan retires therefore pushing her to take a job in a new department. It also is the story of Tony’s life without Carol and Carol’s life without Tony. The case that Paula is working on enthralled me. I could not put this book down and when I was forced to I kept thinking about it. As the story comes together I could not help but think how seamlessly it all works out. The hiccups and twists make the story so entertaining. Making the reader wonder continuously who the killer could be, will Carol and Tony come back together, and can Paula make this new job work for her? I have to recommend this to my fellow mystery readers. As a matter of fact I recommend that you join me in going back and reading the first books in this series if you have not already done so.
Waited along time for Tony and Carol's return and it was well worth the wait. A must read!!!
I've read about 10 books by Val McDermid. Many have been about how the two main characters in this book work together to solve crimes. However, in this one they are estranged and the plot often plays second fiddle to their relationship problems. As a result I didn't find this one as compelling as her other books, which I have all liked. I first discovered this Scottish author in Place of Execution, which I think is her best work.
I always enjoy these books, especially as there are unexpected twists and turns in the relationships between all the characters. Definitely recommend!
Tony Hill and Carol Jordan are back. After their last case that left Carol with the death of her brother and sister in law, Carol has retired. She blames Tony for their deaths and he does too. Then a mother is reported missing and a woman is found murdered that looks like Carol and Tony finds himself being blamed. Paula McIntyre finds herself at a loss and calls Carol in to help her find the proof that Tony is the killer. Carol just knows that Tony wouldn’t be involved and although she doesn’t want to have anything to do with him she steps in to find the real killer. It’s clear that Tony and Carol’s relationship has fallen apart. Both of them are distant and lonely and want to be together yet they don’t. But with this new killer and Tony being blamed as the killer, Carol can’t just sit back and do nothing. This book is more about them trying to work around their split. I admit that I have not read any other books in this series. But I recommend that you read the other books so you can understand more about Carol and Tony’s relationship. As for the mystery, I was a little disappointed. I didn’t see a lot of police discovery for the clues. It was more the killer explaining why he did what he did. It kind of ruins the challenge of reading the story and trying to guess what is going on. I also hate to say this but the first part of the book bored me more with the drama between Tony and Carol. There was a turning point and then things pick up but I was about ready to put the book down. I think if you had read the rest of this series you would probably like this book more than me. But as a stand-alone story I was not really into it. I received Cross and Burn for free from the publisher, a long time ago, in exchange for an honest review.
I thought it would be time to finally read this book since I have been granted the latest Tony Hill & Carol Jordan book (Splinter the Silence) and it was great to return to where we left Tony and Carol in the last book. Well great is probably the wrong world since the catastrophically ending of the last book with deaths and Carol and Tony's relationship in tatters. In this book is Carol trying to move on after a personal loss, she isn't working and she refuses to have anything to do with Tony. Tony meanwhile is struggling to go on with his life without Carol in it. But when Tony is suspected as a serial killer is it Carol that have to come to his rescue, she is still angry with him, but she knows he is innocent and out there is the real killer… Cross and Burn is a really good suspenseful thriller and I was really happy to read about Tony Hill again since he is one of my favorite characters. I do hate to read about main characters being accused of something they haven't done and I must admit that I wasn't looking forward to reading about that. But I knew that would bring Carol back into Tony's life so I prevailed and was rewarded with a very good ending. One of my favorite parts of the book is Carol turning to one person she doesn't like, but she knows will help her getting Tony of the hook. Now I'm looking forward to reading the next book!
Val McDermid's latest book is the eighth entry in her Tony Hill and Carol Jordan series. Cross and Burn picks up a few months after the ending of The Retribution. (my review) The series is set in England. Tony Hill is a clinical psychologist who assists the Bradfield Police Department with profiling. He's good at his job...."he understood them because he had come within a hair's breadth of being them." Carol Jordan is a Detective Chief Inspector with Bradfield. They've made a spectacular team professionally. And they're slowly building a personal relationship as well. Or were.....their last case ended with catastrophic results. Carol has left the force and retreated from everything. Tony is functioning, but barely. And their unit has been disbanded. But, when someone starts targeting women who look like Carol, they must put differences aside to stop a killer. McDermid grabbed me from the opening pages. It is the killer who has the first chapter.... 'He woke every morning with a prickle of excitement. Would today be the day? Would he finally meet her, his perfect wife? He knew who she was, of course. He'd been watching her for a couple of weeks now, growing used to her habits, getting to know who her friends were, learning her little ways. How she pushed her hair behind her ears when she settled into the driver's seat of her car. How she turned all the lights on as soon as she came home to her lonely flat. How she never ever seemed to check in her rear-view mirror." Creepy! McDermid cuts back and forth between the investigation and the killer's point of view. His chapters are deliciously chilling. McDermid is a master of the police procedural. The plots in McDermid's books are devious, dark and gritty. But for this reader, it is the characters that draw me back time and time again. I truly had no idea where McDermid could take this series after the ending of the last book. In Cross and Burn it is DC Paula McIntyre who takes the lead role. I enjoyed seeing another recurring character fleshed out. But Tony and Carol's storyline is the one that intrigues me the most. It's real and raw - I sometimes feel like an interloper, inadvertently intruding on someone's private conversations and grief. The title comes from a quote by David Russell...."The hardest thing in life is to know which bridge to cross and which to burn." The last few pages put a close to this case, but leaves the door wide open for the next installment - one I'll eagerly be awaiting. Although you can read any of this series as a stand alone, I heartily recommend starting at the beginning - it's a must for crime lovers. A television series - Wire in the Blood - is also based on these characters.
I must begin this review by stating how perfect I found the title. It is a quote from David Russell: “The hardest thing in life is to know which bridge to cross and which to burn.” And there many bridges here where both verbs apply. The most startling of these for the reader is the bridge connecting the series protagonists, DCI Carol Jordan and Dr. Tony Hill, forensic psychologist and offender profiler who frequently consulted in that capacity with the police and the MIT. Carol, formerly DCI of the Major Incident Team, had handed in her resignation; her old team has been completely disbanded; and her relationship with Tony, which had reached the point that they had been planning to share the house he had unexpectedly inherited, has ended. Following the horrific events in the last series entry, “The Retribution,” wherein Carol’s brother and his significant other were brutally murdered, the rift between Jordan and Hill is so severe that there has been no communication at all between them for nearly 3 months, with each feeling insurmountable guilt, Carol’s all the worse because she holds Tony even more at fault than she herself; Tony’s own feelings are similar. Following those events as well are other drastic changes: Carol had handed in her resignation; her old team has been completely disbanded; and Tony is now working solely in a secure mental hospital and living on a houseboat. Everything has been affected by budget cuts; the Forensic Science Service has been privatized, with criminal investigations being outsourced; and Tony’s services are felt to be no longer needed: “there’s no budget for anything you can’t reach out and touch any more.” Newly promoted DS Paula McIntyre of the Bradfield Metropolitan Police (formerly a member of the MIT under Jordan,) is called in to a murder scene. She and DCI Alex Fielding, now her boss, soon come to believe that it is the work of a serial killer, when another body is found with the same MO; it appears that he stalks and then kidnaps the women before brutally abusing and murdering them. Periodically there are chapters from the chilling perspective of the perpetrator as he sizes up his next potential victims. All of whom, by the way, strongly resemble Carol Jordan. But half-way through the novel, the author provides a jaw-dropper (literally) of a twist, beyond which point I cannot go. Except to say that Val McDermid just keeps getting better and better (which I know I’ve said in the past of this author’s books, and it remains true). Highly recommended.