The Helper by David Jackson

The Helper by David Jackson

A young woman is brutally murdered in a New York bookshop; Detective Callum Doyle receives a call from her killer, telling him he’s willing to give him clues as to the identity of his next victim – but only on condition that Doyle doesn’t tell anyone. And so as the killings continue, Doyle must interpret the ‘helper’s’ riddles in order to establish a link between his victims, and prevent more from being killed – while all the time trying to protect his career, and his family . . .

I first met Detective Second Grade Callum Doyle in Dave Jackson’s debut thriller Pariah in March 2011, an encounter that still to this day remains fresh in my memory. It was – and is – a terrific debut title and a hard act to follow but follow it Jackson does with a barnstormer of a book called The Helper. Callum Doyle is back with a bang for another adventure as he scours the bars and streets of New York as he frantically attempts to solve another set of grisly murders.

When I reviewed Pariah last year – number 8 in my top 10 of debut titles – I remember claiming it came out of left field but this time I was well prepared, I knew what to expect more or less – but did I? For me, after finishing the book in a little over a day, The Helper is stronger, more robust than its predecessor and has a maturity that clearly shows Jackson is comfortable with his leading man, so much so that he allows others to share the limelight this time around. Following a terrific debut title is never easy, the pressure is on to deliver, and Jackson certainly does, deliver that is!

Characterisation is well delivered but rather than concentrate solely on Doyle and the murders, Jackson has introduced – in Gonzo – a character that I absolutely loved and couldn’t get enough of. A geek, a nerd or someone who clearly wants to help Doyle and the police department, Gonzo is one of those characters you’ll want to take care of, wrap him up in cotton wool and make sure he’s ok. Stuck in a computer lab with little or no human and social interaction Gonzo is very much in his own little world, a world many can relate to. He is such a likable character and thanks to his blossoming relationship with Doyle he begins to creep slowly out of his shell. Everything he does outside the lab is a learning experience – even laundry – an experience I for one loved sharing (not the laundry bit!).

Callum Doyle is back, still coming to terms with events and the fallout from Pariah, and is as dry, humorous and sarcastic as ever. Relationships with his fellow detectives are strained to say the least and his daily routine is a struggle. Relegated to small and inconsequential crime solving our intrepid hero begins to question his role; that is until he is connected to a murder victim and drawn in to a series of complex and intelligent murders Moriarty himself would have been proud of. As in his first book Doyle isn’t flawless, he carries his fair share of emotional baggage and he makes mistakes, that’s one of the things I like about him, how abnormally normal he really is, a guy you’d quite happily share a pint with down the pub.

Another character to shine is Doyle’s daughter Amy and one highlight for me were the hilarious conversations she shared with her father, more often than not at the end of a harrowing day when he’s clearly exhausted – although to the young child they are deadly serious questions and deserved his serious and undivided attention. Whether talking about how quick dogs walk and why they are always in a hurry, prickly porcupines or the age old question about clowns and fish, Amy is a delight.

‘Which would you rather be – a clown or a fish?’

‘What?’

‘A clown or a fish? Which one would you rather be? If you could only be one.’

Doyle considers the question with the seriousness it surely deserves. Such matters cannot be regarded lightly.

‘Okay, well I think probably a clown. Because then I could take off my outfit and make-up and become a normal person.’

Amy shakes her head vigorously. ‘No. You can’t do that. Whatever one you choose, you have to stay like that, for the rest of your life.’

Another standout element of the book for me was the terrific plot and eloquent multi layered storyline, it had me on the edge of my seat from beginning to end. I loved the imagination shown by the killer, the ingenuity behind each murder and an exhaustive and limitless supply of intelligence that had the police on the run throughout. The ending is both unexpected and genius, Jackson certainly had me fooled. He ties things up effortlessly and explains his reasoning before pulling the final twist. This is one book I wish I had it in me to write, I can’t say fairer than that.

Written with a backdrop that is distinctly Irish and completely unputdownable, The Helper is a magnificent book, one that will have you entertained from the very first page right up to its climactic dénouement. I can’t wait to find out what happens next. Jackson has this natural ability to make his words sing, a facile and accomplished manuscript that rewards its readers with a cornucopia of literary magic. Take a bow sir; this is a virtuoso performance Mr Jackson if ever there was one.

Published by Macmillan, The Helper is available in Paperback (trade) and Kindle formats.

  • ISBN-10: 0230760481
  • ISBN-13: 978-0230760486
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2 Responses to “The Helper by David Jackson – Book Review”

  1. Nikki-ann says:

    Sounds like a great read and a fantastic cover too :)

  2. Susi Holliday (@SJIHolliday) says:

    Wow, great review. Can’t wait to read this book. Particularly looking forward to meeting Gonzo!

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