Monday, November 24, 2008

The Soul Collector by Paul Johnston


Crime writer and journalist Matt Wells is living in London with Detective Chief Inspector Karen Oaten who heads up the elite Violent Crimes Co-ordination Team. He has been preparing with friends for the possible revenge attack by an ex-lover, Sara Robbins, for the killing of her brother a few years earlier, the self styled "White Devil". When Matt's friend an ex-SAS soldier is found murdered Matt's worst fears seem to be realised. When crime novelists seem to be targeted and a gang war breaks out between Turks, Kurds and Albanians the police, as well as Matt and his friends, have sleepless nights and nightmares ahead of them.

The Soul Collector reminded me strongly of Messiah by Boris Starling in its pacing and setting (being London, which is my own backyard). The character of Matt Wells is probably the best thought out the large cast of characters in the book, as he should be, being the main character who is perpetrated against.

I think the novel will film well - it is in keeping with the urban happenings that we see on TV and in the newspaper everyday. What makes it quite intimate is how the author brings the minutiae to life on the page, giving you an intense look at the inner workings of a police procedures, the deals and counter-deals being made between the various gangs that run the drugs and guns rackets in London.

There is much to like about the novel as it is a pacy fun read which relies heavily on the charisma of the main character. Initially, I found him overbearing and self-obsessed and I was ready to dislike him and his friends but then the author turned the tables and proved that "being paranoid doesn't mean that they're not after you". I cut the lads some slack. I had to! They were being chased and lead astray by false clues at various murders and their own paranoia had them over thinking every move they made. That aspect made it quite real and a bit freaky.

The novel is light on its feet and moves from one locale within London to the next quite rapidly. The ensemble cast of characters that the author had set up for Matt as friends were just that bit over the top. They all had various nicknames which does become confusing as you had to keep actual names and nicknames straight in your head, as they switch from nicknames to actual names quite quickly. Having mentioned that, I need to point out that I understand why the author worked these nicknames into the story - it shows the group of friends as more than just platonic friends, they are comrades, a group of guys who would stand against the world, and by one another no matter what.

I loved the gratuitous sexy weapons speak and the training the lads had undergone, all to keep themselves from being captured by Matt's insane ex-girlfriend. I loved the fact that the ex-girlfriend remained and turned out to be as insane and unhinged as she was perceived by various people in the book. Her motivations are strong and she is ruthless to the core, out to get her revenge, come hell or high water. A very tough lady indeed.

This is the second of the Matt Wells novels with the first one being "The Death List". I have the idea that the author will be pitting Matt against even more formidable antagonists in the future. Matt's character is one that asks to be trotted out for more stories to involve him in. He and his cronies seem to thrive the craziness.

The novel expects you to sit back, suspend your disbelief, and to enjoy the ride it takes you on and it does not let up till the very last.

You can find the author's site here and the book can be bought either from Mira UK here or from any other high street bookshop or online.

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