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Ragdoll: A Novel - Daniel Cole

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.