Let me tell you a story about a man who decides to write a screenplay. That screenplay will take five years to create and hone, will gather an impressive collection of rejection letters but is one which the writer kept returning to, eager to see how the story will finish. And so the writer turns it into a novel. And that novel sells to 32 territories at the latest count. And will no doubt be one the hits of 2017. So television's loss is the reader's gain.
William Oliver Layton-Fawkes, or Wolf as he is known to all but his mother, has recently been reinstated to the police stationed at New Scotland Yard. He returns on the back of a violent episode in his life, and some of his colleagues are still wary of him. He is thrust straight into the thick of things when a body is found. This, however, is no ordinary body. It has been created from the body parts of six different victims. That day, the killer contacts the press. There will be more victims, with the dates they are to be killed. Fawkes and his colleagues are in a race against time to stop the killer before he strikes out everyone on the list.
The story starts with a bang. The reader is taken back to 2010, to a high profile murder case, one in which Wolf has a vested interest. Events take a surprising and violent turn and sees Wolf removed from his way of life. The story then sees Wolf reinstated as a detective, returning to work on what looks likely to be a case that will have the world gripped.
The story is peppered with humour, I often found myself chuckling over lines, it is light relief that is welcome to counteract the violence that surrounds the case. And what violence there is. Daniel Cole has managed to conjure up some of the most unusual and original forms of death I've read about, each one grisly, each one inventive, and each one drawing the reader further into the story.
The characters are all perfectly drawn. Wolf is the troubled detective with his own sense of justice, one which has had serious consequences in his past. He is the lone wolf, working with others when he must, but believing he must sometime act alone for the greater good. Baxter is taciturn, hiding a secret that controls her and unsure of her relationship with Wolf. The interaction she has with her colleagues is great to read, as is the working relationship that develops between her and Edwards, her trainee. Edwards, keen to do well since his transfer from Fraud, is initially naïve but grows as the story develops. Driven, focussed and impassioned he is a great counter-balance to the others. Finlay and Simmonds, both older officers add comedy to the story and balance out the team.
This is Daniel Cole's debut novel and he enters the crime writing scene with a bang. I have said before that whether the author is publishing their debut novel or is a seasoned writer in their field should have no bearing on how the book should be received. Deserved praise should be given whatever stage the author is in their career. Great writing is great writing and it this that should be celebrated. And it should be celebrated here. Daniel Cole has written a compulsive crime novel that one is loath to put down. It is the true definition of gripping fiction.
The fact that this novel was originally a screenplay is evident throughout. And that isn't a bad thing. The scenes can be easily imagined, there are cliff-hangers at the end of most chapters and the characters and storyline are ripe for adaptation. I could easily see this wowing viewers as well as readers.
Enthralling, inventive and compelling, Daniel Cole has created a brilliant cast of characters and a truly gripping novel. I can only wait for more from him with baited breath.
Sooo….book #2. A daunting task, particularly when the first one was a huge hit. But this author really upped the ante by leaving out his popular MC William “Wolf” Fawkes & switching the focus to another character.
That would be DCI Emily Baxter. She worked the Ragdoll case with Fawkes & is still reeling from the fallout. To make matters worse, her professional life is a nightmare. Fawkes is AWOL, former colleague Edmunds transferred to Fraud & she got promoted. She just wants to forget it ever happened but it seems the universe has other plans.
FBI Agents Curtis & Rouche land on her doorstep with news of a copycat murder in the US. It’s a double homicide designed to attract maximum attention & they want her help. They don’t know it yet but it will be the first of many in New York & London as they join forces to find the mastermind behind the carnage.
So here’s the deal. I loved Ragdoll. From the first page, I was firmly in its grip & became seriously cranky if interrupted. Alas, I can’t say the same about this one. I think part of the reason was how much I enjoyed the black humour served up by Fawkes’ character. It gave the reader little moments of humorous relief from the grisly tension & I keenly missed his presence here.
Baxter is a compelling character but she’s also a physical & emotional hot mess. I desperately wanted to take Thomas (her doormat…er…boyfriend) out for a chat over a pint. She & Rouche spend the majority of their time haring around New York & London as a legion of bodies pop up on both sides of the pond like some macabre game of Whack-a-Mole. Bruised & bloody from multiple attacks, it’s defies belief they’re even breathing let alone leading a multi-agency manhunt.
One thing that hasn’t changed is Cole’s ability to come up with new & inventive ways for people to die. Practice your “ewwww”…you’re gonna need it. I was happy to see Edmunds return & enjoyed his input as Baxter secretly keeps him in the loop. But i just didn’t find Baxter to be fleshed out or layered enough to be the star of the show. Without a strong MC to hang the story on, it became a succession of frenzied action sequences until the final chapters revealed all.
As always, it depends on what keeps you turning the pages. For me there was a certain spark or something that was missing. But if you’re a fan of full on action, grab this & settle in for a fast paced read.
Thanks to NetGalley and to Trapeze for offering me an ARC copy of this novel that I freely chose to review.
This novel had passed me by (my to be read list is getting longer and longer) when it was first published, but I have been reading quite a number of thrillers recently, saw this book mentioned, and remembered I had yet to read it.
The ARC copy I read includes a funny introduction by the author, which sets the tone for what is to come quite well, although I did not see it in the look inside feature at the front of the published e-book version. The novel is a hard thriller but with a considerable amount of dark humour thrown in (a very British version of it as well). The initial premise is gripping. We have a brief prologue that introduces us to a past case and a deranged detective, and then we discover that four years later he’s back at work, and he has to investigate a very bizarre case. The ragdoll of the title is the name given to the macabre discovery of a body composed of the parts of six different victims. Not happy with that, the killer also releases a list of names of people and the dates when he intends to kill them. And the said detective (Wolf) is the last one on the list. The methods the killer employs are also very imaginative, and there is plenty of violence (and pretty extreme at that).
This thriller, set in London, follows the format of a police procedural novel, but as some reviewers have noted, it does require a certain amount of suspension of disbelief. The fact that somebody who was as disturbed as Wolf, and who very seriously assaulted a suspect in front of a whole courtroom, is allowed to go back to work, stretches the imagination. The way the team works, that seems confused and disorganised, also will surprise those who appreciate the attention to detail and authenticity. As a psychiatrist who has worked in the UK, I didn’t find the portrayal of the mental health secure unit where Wolf had spent time very realistic either (although one could query the fact that he was not well at the time, and other than a brief visit by one of the members of the team, we don’t have any objective accounts of it), and one hopes that news agencies will not be like the one depicted in the novel either (Wolf’s ex-wife works for a TV news station and becomes involved in the case also). But, if we accept the premises of the novel, and forget about how likely it is that this could happen in the real world, it is difficult to fault the book for its imagination, pace, energy, and for the way it grabs and keeps the reader’s attention.
This novel keeps taking us back to the past, and at some points it felt as if it should have been the second novel in the series, as it is evident that what happened four years earlier has a lot to do with the current events, and the way the narration is structured, around the previous case, is one of the strong points, in my opinion. It is as if the whole department had been affected by what happened to Wolf and it has become something of a dysfunctional family. Although there are things that seem far-fetched, on the other hand, the general feeling of pressure, desperation, media attention, cover-ups… felt very real. I have mentioned dark humour, and there is a very cynical undercurrent permeating the whole book, which suits it well and, perhaps, will be easier to appreciate by those who live in or are familiar with the UK, its politics, and its current social situation. I felt as if it was almost a caricature of the truth. Exaggerated and taken to the extreme but easily recognisable nonetheless.
Although it is not a psychologically complex story (and many of the characters play to stereotype: the older detective who is about to be retired, the young rookie who’s just been transferred from a different section and is a stickler for details and rules, the young attractive female detective who looks up to the lead investigator but whose feelings are unclear…), there is plenty of action and many twists and turns, characters, locations, and the ticking clock makes it a rather tense and intense read that will keep most readers guessing. There are a large number of characters, and although we get to know the members of the New Scotland Yard team fairly well over the novel (although quite a few of them keep secrets and are contradictory at best), victims, witnesses, characters from the personal lives of the detectives… all are given a bit of space, and it is important to pay attention not to get lost, especially because of the way the story is narrated. The story is told in the third person but from quite a number of characters’ points of view, not always the main characters either, and although I did not find it difficult to follow and it is a good way to keep the intrigue (by switching points of view and giving us snippets of information only some characters have access to), it means readers should not miss a beat.
Notwithstanding the dark and sharp sense of humour, there are some introspective moments, guilty feelings, and characters wrestle with the morality of the situation, although I do not think it breaks new ground or is the most successful attempt at delving into such issues. At some point, the novel seems about to enter into paranormal territory, and it did remind me of Jekyll and Hyde, as there comes a moment when you have to wonder what it takes to make somebody step over the fine line between fighting a monster and becoming the monster. I don’t want to go into too much detail to avoid any spoilers, but let’s say that good and bad are not ultimately such clear-cut concepts as we would like to believe.
This is a very enjoyable page-turner, especially recommended for those who like a tense and gripping read and are not put off by some over-the-top characterisations and some stretching of the truth, and who don’t mind graphic violence and dark humour. And if you enjoy a London setting, even better.