The Torment of Others, the fourth novel in Val McDermid's Tony Hill and Carol Jordan series, continues the strong but convoluted relationship between the two main characters as they try to learn who is torturing and killing female prostitutes in Bradfield. It has been seven months since Jordan was raped while on an undercover assignment, and she remains tormented with the memory. Her superior in the Bradfield Metropolitan Police has now appointed her head of a newly formed Major Incident Team to deal with difficult cases. The team first becomes involved in a recent unsolved case of a missing boy, but soon must turn their attention to the bloody murder of a local prostitute. The killer's methodology exactly matches that used in a series of murders two years before, but the perpetrator of those crimes is secured in a mental hospital. There seems to be no way anyone else could have learned the exact means of torture/killing. Dr. Tony Hill, renowned criminal profiler, joins the case. He is particularly anxious because he knows Jordan is emotionally vulnerable, especially when the decision is made to send a policewoman from the team to operate undercover as a prostitute. Members of the new team are not necessarily confident in Detective Chief Inspector Jordan as she returns to work and to a new assignment. Even worse, most of them seem to have their own agenda rather than working together as a team.
The award-winning and popular British author has created another vivid psychological thriller, but the plot does not seem plausible, and neither does the characterization of the villain. Tension mounts, but the ending is abrupt and the person responsible unlikely.