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Literature / Tony Hill and Carol Jordan

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A Long Runner series of novels by Scottish author Val McDermid, the Tony Hill and Carol Jordan book series has run between 1995 and 2019 so far. They are all set in the fictional Northern city of Bradfield and deal with a series of extremely brutal crimes, which are solved by Carol Jordan and criminal psychologist Tony Hill. It was the source of the 2000s drama Wire in the Blood, although the books continued after the series' cancellation in 2009.


So far, they are:

1. The Mermaids Singing (1995)

2. The Wire in the Blood (1997)

3. The Last Temptation (2002)

4. The Torment of Others (2004)

5. Beneath the Bleeding (2007)

6. Fever of the Bone (2009)

7. The Retribution (2011)

8. Cross and Bone (2013)

9. Splinter the Silence (2015)

10. Insidious Intent (2017)

11. How The Dead Speak (2019)

Tropes include:

  • Adoption Is Not an Option: In Fever of the Bone, Diane refuses to consider adoption but kills her husband and his children. His kids are sired via a sperm bank, suggesting that the couples feel the same way.
  • Author Appeal: Spotlight-Stealing Squad member Paula is a lesbian who adopted children, like the author.
  • Bloodier and Gorier: The books are noticeably gorier and Darker and Edgier than the series, which is saying something given how dark the series is. For example, Donna gets her arm viciously crushed by a vice while being raped and still alive, and then starves to death in The Wire In The Blood; although she is raped in the series, her arm is not damaged and she survives.
  • Break the Cutie:
    • Tony is very broken by the end of The Mermaids Singing.
    • Carol in The Last Temptation (book)
    • Paula in The Torment of Others (book)
  • Expy: Jacko Vance is one for Jimmy Savile, years before Savile's own sexual assaults and necrophilia was known to the public.
  • Firefighter Arsonist: A subplot in "Wire In the Blood" focuses on Carol Jordan discovering a serial arsonist by linking several fires at abandoned factories and warehouses over the last few years that follow a subtle but clear pattern. The Station Manager of the local Fire Brigade assisting her believes it to be a pyromaniac. However, Tony, upon getting a chance to examine the data, concludes this to be impossible as there has never been a case of a pyromaniac on this scale with enough self-control to keep up such a reliable regime for this long without escalating, concluding instead the arsonist must be somehow benefitting from each fire. Sure enough, one of the part-time firemen is a compulsive gambler in severe debt, who has been starting the fires to ensure work and thus a quick payout to keep their head just above water.
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  • Furnace Body Disposal: InThe Wire in the Blood, it's mentioned that after torturing, raping, and killing his victims, Jacko Vance put their bodies and anything else that linked them to him into the furnace at the hospital where he volunteered.
  • Not the First Victim: In the book, The Wire In The Blood, Shaz links Jacko Vance to a series of abductions and murders of young women with long dark hair, all of which are, at the most, considered runaways, if they are reported at all. Made even worse by the fact that nobody is aware of Vance's current victim, Donna, until weeks into her imprisonment, and even then it's Shaz, who Vance kills, making her his first "official" victim.
  • Samus Is a Girl:
    • Played with by Angelica in The Mermaids Singing; she's a transwoman but is supposedly to be "really" a gay man.
    • 'The Voice' in The Torment of Others that drives men to rape and murder women is female police officer Jan.
  • The Loins Sleep Tonight: Tony suffers from erectile dysfunction, which is most mentioned in The Mermaids Singing, as Val McDermid later stated she regretted it. It does come up fleetingly in some other books, though.
  • Rape as Drama:
    • A lot of the Victim of the Week characters are victims of sexual assault or violence. Jack Vance rapes his victims in The Wire in the Blood, as does the killer in Cross and Bone.
    • Carol is raped while undercover in The Torment of Others.
  • Spotlight-Stealing Squad: Paula gets a lot more screen time in the books, leading investigations and adopting a murder victim's child. It has proven divisive; some find her too bland and perfect, others like her, and some are in the middle, liking the character but feeling that she distracts from Tony and Carol.
  • Trans Equals Gay: Angelica in The Mermaids Singing firmly believes that the only true relationships are between a man and woman and transitions as a result.
  • Two Lines, No Waiting: A common structure, especially post-The Retribution where there will usually be a case happening simultaneous to Carol and Tony's pining and alienation: The Last Temptation does show this earlier when Carol is undercover in a smuggling ring and Tony is investigating a killer of psychiatrists.
  • Wunza Plot: A psychiatrist and academic (Tony) and a police officer (Carol).