Select one of the keywords
Retribution    by Jilliane Hoffman order for
by Jilliane Hoffman
Order:  USA  Can
Putnam, 2004 (2004)
Hardcover, Audio, CD
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Retribution is a razor-edged thriller that hovers on the brink of horror, and occasionally dives in. The suspense is maintained at a high level throughout, and the reader agonizes for the story's heroine. Surprisingly, this is a debut novel by Jilliane Hoffman, whose years of experience as a Florida Assistant State Attorney add depth and credibility to her story.

It all begins as we watch a psycho stalk, then brutally rape lovely young law student Chloe Larson in New York City. She barely survives, and the damage done to her by the 'Clown' changes the course of her life and almost takes her sanity. Twelve years later, the scene relocates to Florida, where Special Agent Dominick Falconetti is in the midst of an investigation into horrific serial killings of eleven young women. The press have dubbed the nutcase responsible 'Cupid', because of his interest in the victims' hearts. Suddenly Falconetti hears that Cupid (apparently a man named William Bantling) has been apprehended, in a serendipitous traffic bust, his latest victim dead in the trunk of his car.

Hotshot C. J. Townsend of the Major Crimes Unit is assigned as state prosecutor. But she gets a very nasty and perceptible shock when she hears the defendant speak in court. The fact that she knows him leaves her in an extreme ethical quandary, circumstances such that if she reveals the situation, the odds are high that this killer will be freed to seek more victims. C. J. consults her psychiatrist, Dr. Gregory Chambers about her dilemma and its impact on both the case and her budding relationship with Falconetti. She comes down on the side of keeping her secret and prosecuting Cupid herself, a highly stressful choice, especially after Bantling's recognition of her jeopardizes the case, her career, and eventually her life. C. J. compromises her professional integrity in the belief that 'To put away a monster, to slay the dragons, even the good guys sometimes had to play dirty.'

A gripping combination of legal thriller and serial chiller, Retribution should also be on required reading lists for law students, for the ethical questions that it raises. It's a story that had me on the edge of my seat, and checking the locks on my doors, while rooting for C. J. and hoping that she would get through the ambush of horrors and surprises the author was clearly laying out for her. With this as a first novel, I can't imagine what Hoffman will write next, but I'll certainly be lining up to read it.

Note: Opinions expressed in reviews and articles on this site are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of BookLoons.

Find more Mystery books on our Shelves or in our book Reviews