Ragdoll: A Novel - Daniel Cole

I’ve read a boatload of police procedural/thrillers & I can’t remember the last time I was so impressed by a debut novel. Gobsmacking. This is a lean, fast paced story that serves up an intricate plot full of great characters with a generous side of black humour.


The book opens on the last day of the “Cremation Killer” trial at the Old Bailey. Det. William “Wolf” Layton-Fawkes has a lot riding on the verdict & when the dust settles, he’s lost it all.


Four years later we find Wolf demoted, divorced & living in a crappy flat. He’s tried to put his notoriety behind him but the past is about to rear its ugly head……literally. He & colleague DS Emily Baxter are called out when a body is found in his neighbourhood. What they discover boggles the mind (and stomach) of everyone at the scene. Suspended from the ceiling is a body comprised of parts taken from 6 victims.


Hmmm….probably not going to be solved by tea time. Wolf & the rest of the homicide unit get to work trying to find the owner of each piece. Meanwhile, ambitious crime reporter Andrea Fawkes is trying to make sense of a list of names she received in the mail. When news breaks of the body, its meaning becomes clear & more than a little worrying. The final entry on the list is William Layton-Fawkes, her ex-husband.


Buckle up, people. You’re in for a wild & frequently hilarious ride. The cops have their work cut out for them as they try to contact those on the list & figure out their connection while keeping the media at bay. For Wolf, the names trigger a vague memory & as the story progresses we gradually learn what happened in the aftermath of the CK trial.


Nuff said about the plot. Believe me, it heads off in directions you’ll never see coming. Somehow the author has managed to incorporate the mundane scut work necessary to solve a case without ever slowing the pace. Dialogue is sharp & each of these well defined characters has a distinct voice. It’s riddled with humour of the dark, often inappropriate variety that effectively breaks up the eeww-ier moments.


At the centre of it all is Wolf, a weary & embattled man who tends to colour outside the lines. He & Emily have a complicated relationship & he depends on her to keep him in check. Her character is smart & irreverent a strong woman who doesn’t care whose feathers she ruffles as long as it gets results.


There is so much more to the story but seriously, you need to stop reading this & get your mitts on a copy. It’s the kind of read you’ll resent having to put down. Highly recommended, especially for fans of Stuart MacBride & Jay Stringer.