In New York’s East Village a young girl is brutally raped, tortured and murdered. Detective Callum Doyle has seen the victim’s remains. He has visited the distraught family. Now he wants justice. Doyle is convinced he knows who the killer is. The problem is he can’t prove it. And the more he pushes his prime suspect, the more he learns that the man is capable of pushing back in ways more devious and twisted than Doyle could ever have imagined. Add to that the appearance of an old adversary who has a mission for Doyle and won’t take no for an answer, and soon Doyle finds himself at risk of losing everything he holds dear. Including his life…
As a seasoned and somewhat cynical crime reader I always have a strange feeling of mild peril when approaching an author’s third outing in a series that has pretty much knocked my metaphorical socks off with the first two books. So here is the third of Jackson’s Detective Callum Doyle’s adventures in downtown New York and how did it do? Yeeeeeeeeees! I can push aside those unfounded feelings of doubt, because I am more than happy to report that Jackson has delivered again. With a somewhat darker feel to the previous two books, what we have here is another full-throttle, and at times violent tale, with Doyle as a modern day caped crusader, albeit with a much better reportoire of pithy one-liners and a never ending propensity to facedown the bad guys and seek justice for the wronged. Doyle is up to his little bent nose in trouble, juggling the demands of hunting down a murdering rapist, running errands for gangsters, navigating the annoyance of a new young and earnest police partner and trying not to totally tee off his long suffering wife. Oh yeah, and it looks like his daughter might be a kleptomaniac.
But seriously, this is an absolute page turner throughout, suffused with the twists and turns so firmly recognisable in Jackson’s style. Doyle goes about his business with little thought to his own physical safety and finds himself one-on-one with one of the most scheming, duplicitous and odious characters ever to grace the pages of a crime book, in the shape of Stan Proust, the demon tatooist. Doyle is convinced that this snake in the grass is responsible for the abduction, rape and murder of two girls, the latest being Megan Hamlyn, and goes all out to prove Proust guilty, setting him against his new partner Tommy LeBlanc and doing nothing to quell the genuinely held suspicion in the squadroom that Doyle is a loose cannon. This is an incredibly dark but well executed thread to the book, as we see Proust turning the screws on Doyle bit by bit, threatening all corners of Doyle’s life. As we observe Doyle’s interaction with Megan’s bereaved parents, in particular, with her mother Nicole (who has a strong presence in the book and an intriguing part to play in the overall plot), we feel the urgency of Doyle to bring this man to justice. But fate has more in store for Stan Proust than just the attentions of Doyle, and with the reappearance of shadowy figures from Doyle’s murky past (in particular the cross-eyed gangster Bartok) this all adds up to Doyle being pulled in all directions in this twisted storyline tightly weaved…
Aside from the tightly controlled plotting in both this and the previous books, Jackson once again demonstrates his gift for characterisation and dialogue, very reminiscent in style to one of his proclaimed writing influences, the late great Ed McBain. Doyle is a wiseass, pure and simple, relying on his own propensity for wit on probably some less than suitable occasions. The violence Doyle encounters is always beautifully counterbalanced with his knack for the ready quip, with more than one of his colleagues being antagonised by his smart mouth, but throughout the book this use of humour enriches the cut and thrust of the precisely drawn dialogue. Doyle’s uneasy relationship with new partner LeBlanc reminded me strongly of the Harry Callaghan school of indoctrinating partners, with probably slightly better odds at surviving, and it was nice to see the revival of Doyle’s fraught former dealings with his Internal Affairs nemesis Paulson in the course of the tale. The characterisation throughout is perfectly pitched and credible, as we bear witness to Doyle’s less than adept social skills and his skill at covering his own back, whilst always admiring his unerring determination to bring the guilty to justice, despite the determination of others to thwart him. The surrounding characters simply work well, as they are as roundly drawn as the central protagonist, and there is a good symbiosis of action and reaction played throughout them, that fleshes out Doyle’s character and his differing relationships with them.
So to conclude, fear not if you have not had the pleasure of reading ‘Pariah’ or ‘The Helper (but quite honestly why haven’t you?) as the relevant back story is seamlessly woven in to the tale so you’re not aware of playing catch-up. As with other reviewers, I would issue a slight word of caution, for the more sensitive among you that there is a fair amount of violence, but nothing that will keep you awake at night, unless your other half has a less than healthy relationship with their power tools. Joking aside, apart from a v. minor wobble on the closing page, this is a great read; earthy, compelling and unmissable. Go now out into the world and discover Doyle for yourselves…
David Jackson is the author of a series of crime thrillers featuring New York detective Callum Doyle. His debut novel, ‘Pariah’, was Highly Commended in the Crime Writers Association Debut Dagger Awards, and translation rights have been sold. Both it and its sequel, ‘The Helper’, have been greeted with rave reviews, including one from the Guardian that reads: ‘Recalls Harlan Coben – though for my money Jackson is the better writer.’ David’s fiction website can be found at: www.davidjacksonbooks.com
See my reviews of the first two Callum Doyle titles here: David Jackson- The Helper/Pariah.
Read Keith B Walters’ review of ‘Marked’ here: http://booksandwriters.wordpress.com/
See author Mel Sherratt’s interview with David Jackson here: Murder They Wrote – http://wp.me/p2eihP-ed
(With thanks to Macmillan for the ARC)