By Daniel Cole
A body is discovered with the dismembered parts of six victims stitched together like a puppet, nicknamed by the press as the 'ragdoll'.
Assigned to the shocking case are Detective William 'Wolf' Fawkes, recently reinstated to the London Met, and his former partner Detective Emily Baxter.
The 'Ragdoll Killer' taunts the police by releasing a list of names to the media, and the dates on which he intends to murder them.
With six people to save, can Fawkes and Baxter catch a killer when the world is watching their every move?
On the whole I tend not to enjoy crime books, however, I really enjoyed Ragdoll and I will definitely read more books by Daniel Cole.
Ragdoll was originally written and rejected as a screenplay and I have no idea why, I thought it was brilliant and incredibly entertaining, I was hooked from the get-go.
The prologue begins with the media-frenzied trial of ‘The Cremation Killer.’ He was a prolific serial killer who had killed twenty-seven young prostitutes in twenty-seven days. The 14-16 year old girls had on the whole still been on fire when they were discovered.
Eighteen days after all the killings had stopped Wolf arrested Naguib Khalid for the murders.
The arresting officer at the centre of the controversy, the detective nick named Wolf: William Oliver Layton-Fawkes.
Then everything to do with case began to fall apart and rumours began to emerge about Wolf’s obsession with the case, his alcohol dependency and allegations of his violent behaviour towards his wife and how that had led to his marriage failing.
When the jurors find Khalid not guilty Wolf sees red.
Ribs cracked beneath Wolf’s foot, the skin liberated from his own knuckle, with the intensity of the attack…He looked dead, but Wolf needed to be sure.
In the present Wolf is woken by a call from his boss, Simmons, in the early hours of the morning telling him he has a crime scene he needs to be at. When he gets there the constable on the door asks if he is “courtroom massacre Fawkes.”
Wolf’s colleague, Emily Baxter, comments to Wolf that it is a ‘once-in-a-career case’ and when he sees the body Wolf can see why she made this comment:
“The naked body, contorted into an unnatural pose, appeared to be floating a foot above the uneven floorboards. It had it’s back to the room, looking out through the enormous window. Hundreds of almost invisible threads held the figure in place, which in turn, were anchored by two industrial metal hooks.
It took Wolf a moment to identify the most unnerving feature of the surreal scene before him: the black leg attached to the white torso…As he drew close, he noticed the huge stitches binding the mismatched body parts together, the skin tensed where the material punctured through: one black male leg, one white; a large male hand on one hand side, a tanned female counterpart on the other.”
Wolf is my favourite character from any crime book I have ever read, and on the whole I would say this book had a lot of very strong characters. Wolf is described as being ‘solidly built’ and having ‘deep blue eyes’. One of the jurors thinks he would be attractive if he didn’t look like he had been awake for months. He's very passionate about his work and extremely unorthodox in his methods.
Whilst at the crime scene Wolf recognises the face of the ‘ragdoll’ is Khalid’s and it soon becomes clear that there is a definite link to that case when Wolf’s ex wife, Andrea, is sent a list of names of people who are going to be killed and the dates they will die. Wolf’s name is on that list.
I loved the relationship between Baxter and Wolf, not just the way the reader was never certain what they were to each other, but also just the way they believed in and looked after each other. Despite being ‘nearly a decade his junior’ there is clearly a spark between them.
On the whole Baxter is a prickly character who is constantly on the defence and puts up barriers in the form of a barrage of insults against people. Where Wolf is concerned though she has a softer side and this was what made me love her as a character. One colleague who is more critical of Wolf’s methods is Edmunds, a transfer from the fraud department. He is newly married and is under-estimated at every turn by the rest of his colleagues but proves invaluable to them once the case is underway.Edmunds and Baxter argue over Wolf because Edmunds questions the wisdom of Wolf’s involvement in what is bound to be a high- profile case.
"You just wait until you’ve been in a few more years, watching these pieces of shit wriggling themselves out of trouble time and time again…Everything’s not black and white. What Wolf did was wrong, but he did it in desperation for all the right reasons.”
Baxter clearly feels regret over how she reacted to Wolf after the Khalid incident.
“No one stood by Wolf when it happened, not even me…He was going to be sent down for it. They wanted blood. They were going to make such an example of their ‘disgraced detective’ and then, one chilly February morning, guess who they find standing over the barbequed corpse of a schoolgirl? She’d still be alive today if they’d only listened to Wolf.”
She reveals that he didn’t get off ‘scot-free’, he was put in a mental hospital and his marriage and reputation were left in tatters.
Baxter knows Wolf better than any of his other colleagues and recognises signs of his strain easier than any other.
“She still had not even acknowledge the fact that his name had featured on the killer’s list, perhaps because she was not sure how he expected her to react. Now, more than ever, she had absolutely no idea what they were to each other.
She was amazed by the way in which he had thrown himself into his work. Weaker men would have gone to pieces, hid, sought sympathy, and reassurance from those around them. Not Wolf. If anything, he had grown stronger, more determined, more like the man she had known during the Cremation Killings, the same efficient, ruthless, self-destructive time bomb. No one else had noticed the subtle shift in him yet, but they would in time.”
This book was definitely not for the faint-hearted as many of the deaths were pretty gruesome. The first name on the list was Mayor Turnable and he was due to die on the day officers discovered there was a list. They brought him in to their interview room for his safety and Wolf was tasked with sitting with him despite their difficult history.
“Wolf was about to protest when the Mayor defiantly placed the cigarette between his lips, sparked the lighter and, with a cupped and hand shielding the flame from the air-conditioned breeze, drew the fire towards his face…For a fleeting moment, the two men stared at one another, neither able to comprehend what was happening. Wolf watched as the flame caught when the cigarette wedged the mayor’s mouth open and spread instantaneously to consume the entire lower half of his face.”
I would recommend this book to others without a second thought. It was an enthralling read.
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