Frequent readers of crime fiction tend to be over some plot element or standard form or another. It's hard to avoid getting a little jaded when a particular structure shows up time and time again - and in my case it's been serial killers for sometime now. Which does at least mean that it's a discomfortingly nice surprise when you come across an interesting twist on the tired old form.
Which, of course means, that you've taken a punt on something with a blurb that's guaranteed to be off-putting. For this reader there was something about the author's bio and the blurb of RAGDOLL that hinted at something out of the ordinary. Mercifully there didn't seem to be slightest indication (nor eventuality) that time would be spent in the killer's head, whilst they explained their twisted little justifications ad infinitum. Whatever it was that made me pick up RAGDOLL though, thank goodness it was there. This is a brilliant book, and I'm acutely aware how dodgy that sounds, what with the whole serial killer thing and all.
That's not to say that there's not a hefty serving of ick about the discovery of dismembered human remains, sewn together and strung up like a puppet. Hence the "Ragdoll Killer" nomenclature from the press.
That's not to say that there's not a stressed, fragile, and flawed central character. In fact Detective Wolf Fawkes raises each of those to a new high, and adds highly suspect into the bargain. His offsider is the only person who can work with him for a whole heap of complicated, nuanced or blazingly obvious reasons.
And it's definitely not to say that there's not quite a headliner to the whole serial killer plot - what with a list of intended victims, and the dates of their deaths delivered straight into the hands of a slightly less than eager member of the press - she being the ex-wife of Wolf Fawkes and all. His is, after all, the last name on the list and the divorce wasn't that acrimonious.
RAGDOLL has a beautifully twisted storyline, peopled with wonderfully flawed human beings, delivered a break-neck pace. There's enough surprising twists and turns to the plot elements to allow the standard clichés - like the tension with upper echelons, and the difficulties in forming working partnerships - play out against suspicion and the sheer weirdness of having a list of victims who the police are desperately trying to identify and protect. Then there's the complication of connecting the dots between them. What do a series of seemingly random killings have to do with each other, and does that answer provide even the vaguest hint about a killer who is resourceful, cunning and very deadly.
It's been a while since finishing a debut book made me mildly miffed I'd have to wait a while for the second in the series. Particularly as the end of RAGDOLL does not in anyway telegraph where a second might be heading, let alone starting out. Which statement is trying to be deliberately tantalising because really this is a debut book everyone should be reading - serial killer allergy or not.