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Friday, 30 December 2011

Review: Pariah by David Jackson

by David Jackson
Published by Macmillan, March 2011
ISBN 9780330530569

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Pariah is the debut novel from David Jackson. It is written like a Hollywood movie whilst combining the overall feel and structure of hit US crime dramas like CSI, Criminal Minds or Law and Order. So, if you like a good action movie or crime drama, you'll want to give this book a try.

Here is the blurb:

It’s a bad enough day for NYPD detective Callum Doyle when his cop partner is murdered. It’s about to get a hell of a lot worse . . .

When the dead man’s replacement is also brutally killed, suspicion falls on Doyle himself. Then he receives an anonymous message. This is just the beginning, it says. Anyone he gets close to will die – and that includes Doyle’s own family. The only way to keep them alive is to stay away. For good.

Doyle is desperate to find out who is responsible, but when his every move puts others in danger he is forced to back off. With the investigation getting nowhere and his isolation deepening, Doyle has to ask himself an uncomfortable question: just how low is he prepared to sink in order to get his life back?

There are so many aspects that come together to make this book a success. David Jackson has identified key elements to make a successful crime thriller, and put those ingredients together in a way that is original, yet easy and enjoyable to read. Pariah is not literary and it is not your standard commercial thriller either. It is well thought out, and it keeps you guessing, but it also flows effortlessly and with good pace.

I like the storyline of this book and while the blurb above did not blow my mind, I was happy to expect some good action. We have seen before the case of an innocent man who has been set up and finds that people around him are being murdered, so it did not seem the most original idea at first, but then I read it and realised that this really is quite original. The book is more than the blurb suggests, because the author takes this exciting, if familiar, idea and makes it his own by providing us a conclusion and answer to Doyle’s questions (particularly the “why?”) that I had not expected.

The suspense and tension is so thick you can cut it with a knife, particularly, and understandably, between Doyle and his fellow officers once the link between himself and the recent deaths becomes clear. Knowing Doyle’s innocence makes you want to defend him, makes you angry when the other officers turn against him, but then there is that thought in the back of your mind which says, if you were them, wouldn’t you feel the same?

The paranoia that Doyle experiences is contagious, as I found myself second guessing every gesture and statement made by the other characters, hoping to reveal some clues. It is the kind of book that invites you, challenges you even, to try and figure out the who and why before it is revealed. I liked how the author demonstrates the agony that Detective Callum Doyle is feeling and the way that solitude gnaws away at his sanity, by letting us into his thought process. Although the book is told in third person, we are still able to zone in on Doyle through his thoughts.

However, for me the best feature is the revelation – the ‘why’ of the whole situation. It is so simple, yet unexpected, and for all the theories you have going around in your mind, this real reason probably never even occurred to you. Even when it became a bit clearer who had masterminded Doyle’s suffering, I never realised why. It was kind of funny, in a bitter way, that all of the havoc, all of the suffering, had been for a reason so primitive and far less sophisticated. Also, the role and importance of Doyle changes, as does ones perspective of the whole situation. I loved that the author was able to bring it back down to simple human base emotions and the way they lead us to act. How a man’s life could be destroyed so easily..

As a fan of crime dramas and thriller movies, as someone who loves a strong detective character, especially when they have to face such major personal and moral issues, and as someone who likes action and mystery and to be kept guessing until the very end, this book ticks all of those boxes.

I would like to thank Philippa McEwan at Pan Macmillan, and of course David Jackson himself, for the pleasure of reading Pariah. The sequel to Pariah, The Helper, publishes in March 2012 and I cannot wait to read it.

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