Friday, September 2, 2016

Book review: The Death Collector - Neil White

Author: Neil White


Genre: Crime.

Title: The Death Collector

Author: Neil White

Star rating: 6.5 out of 10.0

Buy: No

Borrow: Yes

Summary: The Death Collector is a detective novel involving both a private investigator and the police. It is readable but does not meet the expectations set by the cover’s statement: “the number one bestseller”. As Amazon's review says: " The Death Collector is charming, sophisticated and intelligent, but he likes to dominate women, to make them give themselves to him completely; to surrender their dignity and their lives. He's a collector of beautiful things, so once he traps them he'll never let them go."

Main review: 

The book has two pluses going for it: the plot and a short list of dramatis personae.

The plot is straight forward without becoming too obvious and boring.  I’ve read detective novels with a plot so convoluted I had to frequently re-read several passages to keep up. Similarly, I’ve read crime novels where there are so many characters, I had to list them and  their relationship in order to follow the story line.

The plot here involves a series of murders involving young married women. Rebecca Scarfield’s dismembered body was left on Saddleworth Moor near Manchester, the site of the infamous moor murders of Ian Brady and Myra Hindley. Her murder was solved by DCI Hunter, of Manchester Police, supported by detectives Weaver, Hugh and David Jex. David disappears before the crime was solved. Hunter is not far from retirement and has an unenviable track record.

Aidan Molloy was charged, found guilty and is serving his sentence. His mother Mary is convinced of his innocence and actively campaigns to rally support for a re-investigation.

To the ‘rescue’ comes Joe Parker a lawyer and frustrated  private investigator. He is one of a two-person team covering crime, part of a larger law firm, Honeywells. His boss is forever chasing him for revenue and profit which is not surprising as he hardly does any legal work.

There is great strain between Joe and his wife, Alice, because she feels he is neglecting his family due to his long hours. Of course, he feels these hours go with the job.

Joe comes across Carl Jex, a teenager, who was lurking and peeking through the window of a suburban house. Carl is worried because his father, David, went missing a short while ago. Carl was following up some addresses he found in David’s files.

The Collector, who is kept incognito until more than three quarters into the book, is the culprit who murdered Rebecca. His main victims are young married women.

Melissa Clarke is another victim.

After meeting with Mary, Joe was persuaded to investigate Rebecca’s murder and Aidan’s conviction.  
Sam Parker, Joe’s brother, another Manchester detective, is not valued by DCI Hunter, though we are never told why. But he is supported by his boss DI Evans. He too is  sure Aidan’s conviction is unsound and wants to catch the real culprit.  Sam in fact finds David Jex’s body, also on the Moors, following some very intuitive thinking. Surprisingly, Hunter, instead of being pleased, reacts negatively to this. Only towards the end do we find out why.

Meanwhile Joe chases down Dan and Nicole, key witnesses to Aidan’s case, and gets Dan to admit that Hunter persuaded him to change the description of the car involved from a red Ford Focus to a dark blue Astra. He now has some real evidence of a serious miscarriage of justice.

Meanwhile Carl is caught by the Collector and chained in the cellar, where there is a dead woman who turns out to be Melissa. Her body is soon disposed of, but another woman is kidnapped and left for dead. Her name is Emma. Carl realises Emma is alive and persuades her to kill the Collector with a piece of broken glass found in the cellar when he next comes in. She tries to stab the Collector but is overcome and killed, leaving Carl in despair.

Rachel was dating the Collector, but managed to escape before she came a victim as she began to get suspicious of his behaviour. Her information helps Joe to subsequently locate the Collector. 

Joe manages to find Carl and free him. Together they figure out who the Collector is and where he is headed to with Joe’s wife who was kidnapped in the meantime. A desperate chase through the Moors and into a tunnel all add to a sense of suspense.

As with many detective novels, all ends well with the Collector found and killed in time and Alice safe and sound though dreadfully frightened, but not for Hunter, and not so good for Weaver either. I will say no more so as not to spoil it for your readers.

Unfortunately, apart from the Collector with his thoughts about his victims and his reminiscences of his dead mother with whom he is obsessed, all the other characters are two-dimensional, even Joe who is the principal character. Apart from knowing he is married with some young children we do not know much else. Is he tall or short, large or small? Does he drink beer or spirits? What are his hobbies and habits? And the same applies to all the other characters.

So, all in all, readable but not worth spending your own money.

Please note that the review on Amazon says, amongst other things, that: "Joe Parker is Manchester's top criminal defence lawyer and Sam Parker - his brother - is a brilliant detective with the Greater Manchester Police force.

If so, then I feel sorry for Manchester and its police force!

Further reading suggestion: Turning Blue -

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