I just finished The Retribution by Val McDermid. It is a mystery featuring Tony Hill and Carol Jordan, recurring characters in 7 of McDermid’s mystery books. This book followed up on an earlier Hill/Jordan mystery, The Wire in the Blood, the first McDermid book I ever read. It hooked me on this series, and on McDermid’s work more generally. I was amazed that she killed off a key character in Wire. Now in The Retribution the killer Hill, Jordan, et. al. caught in Wire escapes from prison and sets out to revenge himself on Hill, Jordan, and others he thinks have betrayed him. It is a bit of a wild ride. I quite enjoyed the ride. I might have to go back and re-read Wire in the Blood because it is good, and because it has been a while.
I wasn’t expecting the connection between Retribution and Wire, but was quite pleased by it. I like it when authors bring in characters or use settings from other books, even when they aren’t in the same “series.” Of course one expects the overlap in books in the same series (though the degree of overlap can vary widely even in a series), but it is nice when it happens in places that are not quite expected. The author has an imaginary world, and populates it with characters who show up in each other’s space from time to time. McDermid does this in some of her other books. Characters or situations make a drive-by or background appearance. John Grisham also did it in some of his earlier books — the FBI director was the same in Pelican Brief and The Firm. Those are the two I can think of off the top of my head. Do you know an author who re-uses background characters or situations in different books, not in the same series?