A young woman working in a small book store is viciously murdered. On her arm is written a telephone number… and Detective Callum Doyle instantly recognises it as his own. This being Doyle’s first murder case since the events of the previous book, he is reticent to reveal this strange detail to the other detectives working the case. However, when he begins receiving phone calls from the killer, he is stuck in the middle. Doyle is unwilling to give up on the one link he has to the killer by revealing the calls to his fellow detectives, and also unwilling to play the killer’s game. He quickly realises that to have any chance of stopping further murders, he must work out the riddles before him, whilst also protecting not only his career, but his family too.
In Pariah, Jackson introduced Detective Doyle, a hardened New Yorker whose home life is normal, but whose work is extraordinary. He doesn’t get on with most of his colleagues, who see him as tainted by the death of his former partner, and this thread carries on into The Helper. This notion of his being alone plays well with the situation he finds himself in – tracking down a killer without informing anyone of what is going on.
The present tense narrative means the reader experiences events at the same instance as Doyle, which adds a real sense of urgency to the story, and works really well with this race-against-the-clock thriller. Jackson also weaves in the city, giving a real sense of place without deviating from the fast pace he sets from the beginning.
The serial killer angle is a difficult one to keep fresh at the moment, with a plethora of novels out there in book land. However, Jackson comes up with a quite original angle for this story, with the notion of a detective being in contact with the killer from the offset, and having the chance to stop more deaths. This adds a lot to the story, making it an incredibly absorbing read.
Doyle’s family start coming into their own with this novel, with his wife becoming a more well-rounded character, rather than just a placeholder for Doyle to come home to each night. I’m looking forward to seeing more of this character as the series progresses. Similarly, the others involved in the story are an interesting bunch. The addition of computer geek Gonzo is a particular highlight, an incredibly well drawn character who the reader instantly falls for.
With twists and turns that will keep you reading long into the night, The Helper is an outstanding follow up to Jackson’s début novel. David Jackson is an exciting new name in crime fiction, and I for one am looking forward to what he’ll bring us next.
CFL Rating – 5 Stars