Had a chat with David Jackson at CrimeFest because after reading and reviewing a proof of his debut thriller ‘Pariah’ I have been recommending it for yonks in my daytime job as a bookseller. Bought a copy of his newest ‘The Helper’, again featuring the charismatic Detective Callum Doyle and despite an innocent bookstore employee getting murdered in the first chapter (thanks Dave!) this was a terrific read….
With more twists and turns than snakes on a Waltzer, this is the compelling and equally well-crafted follow up to Jackson’s astonishing debut `Pariah’. Once again featuring Detective Callum Doyle what starts out with a seemingly unprovoked attack on a mousy bookshop employee escalates into a great serial killer thriller. As the killer’s murder rate escalates with varying methods of despatching his hapless victims, what appears to be a fairly random series of murders escalates into the very real threat of a serial killer stalking the streets of New York with a very specific reason for choosing the victims he does, leaving Doyle mystified by the link that he alone is sure exists and finding himself with his own personal hot-line to said killer. Punctuated by moments of great wry humour mostly at the expense of the cast of clowns that seem to be the stable of Doyle’s fellow police officers, Jackson once again balances the tautness of the central investigation with a good dose of New York mordant wit. There is an absolutely terrific reveal at the end which caught me off-guard priding myself as I do as one of those annoying readers that guess the ending and just the right injection of pace that you as the reader (like `Pariah’) are striving as much as Doyle to get to the bottom of this rooting-tooting mystery and seeking to unravel the clues in parallel with him. Along with a neatly conjoining plot woven around the aftermath of 9/11 and a mother’s search for her daughter, this is certainly a more than entertaining crime thriller that wrong foots you at every turn. My only point of dissent would be the seemingly harmonious atmosphere of Doyle’s home-life but maybe that’s just because I personally prefer my detectives to be a little more personally tortured to add another facet to their character but this is a minor quibble and should not detract from the overall satisfaction gained by Jackson’s excellent plotting and well-drawn cast of characters. Can’t wait for the next one…
It’s a bad enough day for NYPD detective Callum Doyle when his cop partner is murdered. It’s about to get a hell of a lot worse . . . When the dead man’s replacement is also brutally killed, suspicion falls on Doyle himself. Then he receives an anonymous message. This is just the beginning, it says. Anyone he gets close to will die – and that includes Doyle’s own family. The only way to keep them alive is to stay away. For good. Doyle is desperate to find out who is responsible, but when his every move puts others in danger he is forced to back off. With the investigation getting nowhere and his isolation deepening, Doyle has to ask himself an uncomfortable question: just how low is he prepared to sink in order to get his life back?
The first thing to say about this crime debut that you rarely get so beneath the skin of a central character in crime fiction as you do with Callum Doyle- you really felt engaged with him as a person as well as with his professional life as a police officer. I think this added to the novel as you shared his confusion at the situation he found himself in and were almost getting to the bottom of everything at the same pace as him, rather than having your mind racing ahead and trying to solve the mystery ahead of him. Hence the real villain of the piece was difficult to identify and that was great because I hate guessing whodunnit! I loved the injection of humour-some cracking one-liners- and felt the mordant wit contributed much to Doyle’s character and really fleshed him out as character. I found the characterisation throughout was excellent- the sinister Bartoks, Spinner, Rocca and Paulsen particularly stood out and added to the depth of the novel in their interactions with Doyle. ‘Pariah’ definitely deserves to get a good push behind it as it ticks all the boxes of good crime fiction and has definitely got that ‘if you like you’ll love…’ opportunity about it as I think it would appeal to fans of Crais, Wambaugh, Child et al. All in all a great debut and a thriller that I will wholeheartedly recommend.