Jackson, David - 'The Helper'
With more twists and turns than snakes on a Waltzer, this is the compelling and equally well-crafted follow up to Jackson's astonishing debut PARIAH. Once again featuring Detective Callum Doyle, what starts out with a seemingly unprovoked attack on a mousy bookshop employee escalates into a great serial killer thriller. As the killer's murder rate escalates with varying methods of despatching his hapless victims, what appears to be a fairly random series of murders escalates into the very real threat of a serial killer stalking the streets of New York with a very specific reason for choosing the victims he does, leaving Doyle mystified by the link that he alone is sure exists and finding himself with his own personal hot-line to said killer.
Punctuated by moments of great wry humour mostly at the expense of the cast of clowns that seem to be the stable of Doyle's fellow police officers, Jackson once again balances the tautness of the central investigation with a good dose of New York mordant wit. There is an absolutely terrific reveal at the end which caught me off-guard priding myself as I do as one of those annoying readers that guess the ending. It has just the right injection of pace that you as the reader (like in PARIAH) are striving as much as Doyle to get to the bottom of this rooting-tooting mystery and seeking to unravel the clues in parallel with him.
Along with a neatly conjoining plot woven around the aftermath of 9/11 and a mother's search for her daughter, this is certainly a more than entertaining crime thriller that wrong-foots you at every turn. My only point of dissent would be the seemingly harmonious atmosphere of Doyle's home-life but maybe that's just because I prefer my detectives to be a little more personally tortured to add another facet to their character, but this is a minor quibble and should not detract from the overall satisfaction gained by Jackson's excellent plotting and well-drawn cast of characters. Can't wait for the next one...
More European crime fiction reviews can be found on the Reviews page.