Written by Fiona Cummins — In January 2017 I was lucky enough to be given a debut novel to review. It stayed with me through thick and thin and ended up being one of my favourite crime fiction books of the year. That book was Rattle by Fiona Cummins and now both the author and her odious Bone Collector character are back.
The so-called difficult second novel is something we readers hear about a lot. Some authors fail miserably, others don’t even try to match the success of that soaring first taste of stardom. A third group go on to even greater things, and Fiona Cummins is definitely in the latter category.
This is an author who can handle the darkest depravity with a steady hand, and The Collector pulls you in from the get-go. If you haven’t read Rattle then be advised that this review contains spoilers. Best grab a copy first before plunging into this book otherwise you’ll be left feeling at a distinct disadvantage.
Young Jakey is free from the grasp of the Bone Collector and he and his father have moved, hoping for a clean slate and a fresh new start. But the boy is still troubled by his imprisonment and by the girl he left behind. He may be in a wheelchair, but by hook or by crook, Jake is determined to help her.
DS Etta Fitzroy is also imprisoned by memories of that time. She hates loose ends, and the unknown fate of Clara Foyle has preyed on her mind ever since she let the Bone Collector escape from her grasp. He’s still out there, somewhere. And when Clara’s pinafore dress washes up on a beach, 100 days after she disappeared, Fitzroy’s anguish ratchets up to unbearable proportions. She is a troubled woman, and this case is tearing her apart – could she finally find closure?
What about the Bone Collector? He’s changed his appearance and his name and is living in splendid isolation on the Essex coast, seething over what Fitzroy did to him and planning both his resurrection and shocking revenge. His collection of deformed skeletons has been destroyed and he is keen to begin rebuilding it, with Jakey a prime specimen. Cummins has created a monster and you may find yourself reaching for the hand sanitiser after touching the pages in which he appears.
This author is a master plotter, so cue a tasty new ingredient in what is already a heady cocktail of drama. The wonderfully-named Saul Anguish is a troubled teenager, a loner with an alcoholic for a mother and too much time on his hands… ripe for the picking, where the Bone Collector is concerned. Why do all the dirty work when you can recruit a keen young apprentice to do it for you? Tension builds as Saul hovers between the path of righteousness and damnation. Naughty or nice? It’s likely to be a close run thing.
This book kept me awake for two reasons – because it is so darn addictive that I had to keep on reading well into the night, and also because it has the power to latch into the imagination and never let go. Cummins creates such realistic characters and twisted scenarios that her words are in danger of burning into the retina.
Rattle arrived with a bang and won plaudits galore for a debut novel which stood out from the crowd. The Collector is a mighty fine piece of work too. If you like your crime fiction dark, shocking and devious, then both Rattle and The Collector should be top of the to-be-read list. You’ll thank me for it.
For more dark, dramatic crime fiction, try The Killer Next Door by Alex Marwood, or go to the original Bone Collector who appears in Jeffrey Deaver’s first Lincoln Rhyme novel. The print version of The Collector arrives in February.
CFL Rating: 5 Stars