Book review: Ragdoll by Daniel Cole

Ragdoll by Daniel Cole
Ragdoll by Daniel Cole
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When a body is discovered with the dismembered parts of six victims stitched together, the police really do have their work cut out.

Stiffen the sinews and summon up the blood for one of the most extraordinary – and entertaining – debut thrillers you will read this year… a gruesome, fast-paced crime mystery packed with dark deeds, intriguing twists and the blackest brand of humour.

Ragdoll is the brilliant opener in what promises to be an exciting new series from Daniel Cole, a former paramedic and RSPCA officer whose intrinsic need to save people is perhaps a foil for his literary compulsion to kill off as many characters as possible.

This patchwork quilt of heart-pumping action, gut-wrenching gore and sardonic wit, which mouldered under the author’s bed for years as a rejected TV screenplay, might never have seen the light of day if it had not been finally resurrected and turned into a pulsating novel.

And how sweet for Cole that the TV rights for Ragdoll have been snapped up by Sid Gentle Films, the production company behind the hit ITV drama The Durrells.

Even by London policing standard, this is a shocking case. A body has been found with the dismembered parts of six victims stitched together like a macabre ragdoll… some are male, some female, some black and some white.

But when DS William (Wolf) Layton-Fawkes is called to the scene in a city apartment, he immediately notes two things. The stitched-on head belongs to Naguib Khalid, the notorious ‘Cremation Killer’ whose Old Bailey trial four years ago led to a courtroom assault and Wolf’s temporary removal from the force… and one of the arms is pointing to the window of Wolf’s flat in the building opposite.

But before Wolf and his former partner DS Emily Baxter have even launched a manhunt, the daring killer taunts the police by sending Wolf’s ex-wife and journalist Andrea a list of names, and the dates on which he intends to murder them.

The first name on the list is a well-known mayor from the local authority… and the last name on the list is Wolf.

With six people to save, a terrifying killer on the loose, a baffling line-up of possible suspects and Wolf’s life in increasing danger, can he and Baxter catch a killer when the world is watching their every move?

The stars of this gripping show are undoubtedly Wolf and Baxter… Wolf, the principled but unpredictable maverick unafraid to rush in where angels fear to tread, and the wonderful, wily Emily, his feisty former partner with more than a few problems of her own.

And this delectable detective double act is tested to the limit as the pair constantly race against the clock to track down a complex and inventive serial killer through an unrelenting tide of bodies, blood and blind alleys, and on to an explosive and shocking finale.

This is crime mystery with the emphasis on graphic but Cole is a clever writer, leavening extreme violence and the merciless murders of a seriously psychotic maniac with moments of dark, laugh-out-loud humour.

Addictive, original and utterly chilling, Ragdoll is a rollicking, stomach-churning rollercoaster ride with no hope of bailing out until the last page has turned…

(Trapeze, hardback, £12.99)