I am re-reading the His Dark Materials trilogy, by Philip Pullman, for various dishonest reasons, and I’ve just gotten to a point in which the witch Serafina, invisibly penetrating the enemy stronghold, sees that one of her sister witches (captured earlier in the tale) is being tortured and is about to give up crucial information that will lead to the Evils of Religion conquering the Virtues of Iconoclasm. Serafina kills the captive witch, both as a mercy and to keep her from giving up the secret.
As I read this scene, something occurred to me. Among the arguments against using torture in the real world is its unreliabilty; since torture victims will say virtually anything to stop the pain, it’s not uncommon for them to lie; thus whatever they say must be verified by other means, making the entire exercise of little utility (except for recreational sadists). In adventure fiction, though, it’s generally taken as a given that pain-based interrogation will in fact work. At least, in the fiction that I’ve read.
Which leads me to the thread question: in what fiction has torture been depicted as NOT working the way Jack Bauer, Bruce Wayne, and Sauron expect?