Murder in Retribution - Anne Cleeland

I was a big fan of "Murder in Thrall" so couldn't wait to get my hands on book #2. Police procedurals are my favourite genre & the ones I've enjoyed the most have a couple of things in common: a smart, complex plot & characters that are interesting & fully realized. This series delivers.

DC Kathleen Doyle & DCI Michael Acton are the most compelling pair/detectives I've come across in a while. In this instalment, news of their quicky wedding is out & the reaction from her colleagues is just one more thing for Doyle to deal with. She's pregnant & for her, morning sickness is a 24/7 occupation. She's also worried about the effect motherhood will have on her career. Acton yanked her off the last case when things became a little too hot. As a result, one of her coworkers got the glory & a promotion.

Now, London is in the middle of a turf war between Russian & Irish gangs & the body count is rising. There are rumours it's related to the murder of an Irishman a few months ago (1st book) but Doyle has her doubts & with good reason. She killed the man responsible. After Acton disappeared the body, no one was the wiser.

This aspect of the plot is very complex & has its' roots in the previous novel. The cast is large with many of the characters concealing hidden agendas & relationships. Doyle was not completely honest with Acton during that case & now worries a little white lie has led to murder. After all, she's the only one aware of his "condition".

Most of the characters have returned. Williams is now a DS & strangely disproving of Doyle's marriage. Munoz, pissed about that & his promotion, continues to hone her ambition while hunting for a wealthy boyfriend. And DCI Drake is still the king of smarm. My favourite new character has to be Reynolds, Acton's house keeper/butler. He is immediately thrown into dramatic circumstances but maintains a stiff upper lip & delivers droll, understated lines that are hilarious.

There are several subplots involving these characters but the two main story lines are the police investigation & our newlyweds' relationship. In terms of the investigative angle, it's almost impossible to summarize. This author plays the long game & seeds of current events were planted in the first book. Names that were casually mentioned & affiliations that seemed insignificant are suddenly in the spotlight, putting a different spin on what you thought you knew. 

It also bleeds over into Doyle & Acton's home life. These are two people who led solitary lives 'til now & they're still feeling their way in this marriage thing. Doyle is young, smart but naive in many ways. Her Irish heritage "gifted" her with an internal lie detector which comes in handy on the job but can be overwhelming in social situations. She takes her Catholic faith seriously which leaves her conflicted over some of Acton's activities. But she never doubts he loves her deeply.

As for Acton, well...he's crazy for her. Literally. He's admitted his Section 7 status, meaning that when it comes to Doyle, he's just this side of creepy stalker guy. In this book we get a closer look at his pathology & it's not pretty. Even he wonders if therapy might not be a good idea. After one particular scene near the end that made my jaw drop, I began to agree with him.

He's a fascinating character. Wealthy, respected & sophisticated, he & Doyle might as well be from different planets. Social status alone should guarantee the relationship is a disaster & even Doyle's priest has his doubts. What makes it work is their mutual understanding of what it's like to have a secret that makes you an outcast. Separately they are insular people adept at maintaining a facade. Together, they just about make one functional person. 

And before it's all over, Doyle will realize it's not the criminals in her day job that are the most deadly.

Just as an aside, in the first book each chapter opened with a short passage in Acton's voice & I missed those here. It was the only time we got to hear his unfiltered & unguarded thoughts & gave the reader great insight into his little problem.

Overall, this is an engrossing & satisfying read. It's darker than book #1 & the continuing character development made me even more invested in these people. I would not recommend it as a stand alone as knowledge of past events is necessary to truly understand what's going on in all aspects of the story.

Because of how it ends, I'm almost afraid to find out what happens next. But I also can't wait.