Ragdoll, by Daniel Cole, is a fast paced, tightly written crime thriller set in London. It introduces the reader to DS William Oliver Layton-Fawkes, nicknamed Wolf, whose temperament and determination to achieve justice has landed him in serious trouble in the past. Four years ago he was commited to a psychiatric institution following his attack on a man he had been pursuing for the so called Cremation Killings. Recently permitted to return to duty, he has now been assigned to a case that looks to be just as challenging.
A body has been found in an otherwise empty apartment. It has been strung up from hooks, carefully posed and illuminated. This grotesque installation would be shocking enough on its own, but the body has been created from the dismembered parts of multiple victims. Wolf recognises the crudely attached head. It has been taken from a man who should be safely locked up in prison.
The team assembled to identify the remaining body parts includes Wolf’s former partner at the Met, Detective Emily Baxter. She is mentoring Edmunds, a recent transfer to the Serious Crimes Unit from Fraud. Edmunds is determined to leave no stone unturned in his thorough investigations. With the body count rising and manpower fully stretched his dogged persistence, against orders, is not appreciated.
Wolf’s ex-wife, Andrea, is a reporter working for a sensationalist TV station. When the murderer sends her photographs of what is soon being referred to as the Ragdoll she approaches her ex-husband. Included in the package is a list. On it are names and beside each is a date. It would appear that the murderer intends to strike again.
The team divide their resources between protecting those threatened and trying to find links between all involved. Meanwhile Andrea broadcasts what she knows to the nation, much to the delight of her boss. Whatever happens next it will happen within the glare of maximum publicity, and he understands that the more horrific the footage the higher his ratings.
Six people were killed to create the Ragdoll, six more are threatened. The murderer has the ability to strike in protected locations. To find him the team need to understand why he is targeting this apparently disparate set of people. And the clock is ticking.
I was hooked from the beginning (no pun intended). The tightly written narrative is brutal and shocking, populated with characters willing to break the rules. The collatoral damage is high, the body count grows. Working out how the murderer strikes is as darkly enjoyable a puzzle as why he has selected his targets.
Although running with familiar tropes – the damaged cop, the alcoholic, the family man, the close to retiree – this somehow transcends the formulaic. Alongside the brutality there is wit and gently mocking humour. The author has pitched the pace perfectly, added twists but retained the plot’s integrity. An intriguing and entertaining read.
My copy of this book was provided gratis by the publisher, Trapeze.