Daniel Cole’s debut crime novel Ragdoll isn’t quite as dynamic as the sum of its parts, which isn’t to say it doesn’t provide a few hours of solid entertainment, just that it lacks the polish of some of his A-Grade contemporaries. London-based Detective William Oliver Layton-Fawkes — otherwise known as Wolf — has potential as a long-running series character, but needs more fleshing out before I’m able to decide whether he’s an ingenious concoction, or a caricature of all the damaged cop characters the genre is teeming in.
Ragdoll opens with the discovery of a corpse comprised of six different victims stitched together like a puppet. As the police begin the unenviable task of identifying the victims, the Ragdoll Killer unveils to the media the names of six people he intends on murdering, and the dates on which they will die. The final name of that list is Wolf’s.
It’s a cool premise, not fully developed. Ragdoll should be laced with tension as the deadline to each victim’s murder approaches; we should be scared for them, and chewing our fingernails as we wonder how — or if — Wolf and his partner, Baxter, can possibly stop this irrepressible killer in time. But there’s none of that; the Ragdoll Killer’s intended victims are portrayed as little more than cardboard cutouts; easy fodder for the killer, and there’s very little ratcheting of tension or upping of the stakes. It’s not necessarily the fault of the plot, rather the bland prose, which is why the final twist lands with a dull thud. It’s not that the ingredients for a truly special crime thriller aren’t there; just that they haven’t been mixed correctly.
Ragdoll will likely find itself some love in airport lounges across the globe. With its high body-count and unswerving narrative, it’ll be gobbled up by readers looking to eat up a few hours, and I’m a firm advocate for the “airport read,” so readers shouldn’t take that remark as overtly derisive. It’s an art form in itself.
The biggest issue with Ragdoll is that it feels very much like a first novel. A few tweaks here and there, maybe a tougher edit, and it might well have earned a place as one of 2017’s must-read crime thrillers. As it stands, it’s an OK debut by an author who has shown enough promise to warrant a second examination come 2018, or whenever the second Wolf novel hits shelves.
Format: Paperback (234mm x 153mm x mm)
Publisher: Orion Publishing Co
Publish Date: 23-Feb-2017
Country of Publication: United Kingdom