The Soul Collector by Paul Johnston

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The Soul Collector by Paul Johnston

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Category: General Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Kerry King
Reviewed by Kerry King
Summary: A fairly fast paced thrill-ride of a read from the author of The Death List
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 448 Date: August 2008
Publisher: Mira
ISBN: 978-0778302360

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In the face of almost certain death at the hands of the serial killer known as the White Devil, Matt Wells has proved to be a survivor. Having re-built his life, reinventing himself as a writer of true crime and finally allowing himself to entrust his heart to someone, it seems that he is finally beginning to move on from his horrifying ordeal. Then his best friend is found murdered and Matt immediately understands there is every reason to start looking over his shoulder again.

The Soul Collector picks up the tale just shortly after the place The Death List leaves off: Matt is now living with Detective Chief Inspector Karen Oaten, with whom he cracked the White Devil case (in the first book) and it is around this story that he has built a thriving career. The first-hand account of his brush with death sees Matt Wells spend many months at the top of the best seller list and make him much envied among his fellow authors. Interest in the minutiae is particularly piqued as the White Devil's partner-in-crime just happened to be his former lover, Sara Robbins, twin sister and incestuous lover of the White Devil.

It is only when a well-known and highly regarded author of crime fiction is found savagely slaughtered and clues that hint at Satanism and Devil worship are uncovered at the scene, Matt realises that his paranoia could very well be justified. On receiving a cryptically worded message, he knows for sure that it can only have originated from once source. The killings begin to come thick and fast and from the most unexpected quarters and the day that Matt has been dreading with every fibre of his being, has finally arrived. Has Sara come back for her revenge? Or is there a copycat killer on the loose?

If you enjoy a really good rip-'em-up slasher/slayer serial killer book, then Johnston's will not disappoint. The Soul Collector is an engaging story and I had no idea what was going to happen within the plot at any time. I'm not sure how much this was due to the fact that I had not read The Death List or how dexterous a writer Johnston is; certainly it seemed imperative during the first thirty pages that I should have read this story first, but latterly, as the tale picked up pace, Johnston went into sufficient depth of pre-history that it ultimately made little difference.

During a torturously tense run-up to the finale, I raced through the pages to reach a very unexpected and somewhat anomalous ending. It actually made me say oh? out loud! Certainly the culmination was not even close to my prediction.

As a whole, I would recommend The Soul Collector as a stimulating, enjoyable, escapist read, with all the right ingredients for the genre. It's the kind of book that takes your mind off a long-haul flight or removes the tedium of sitting on a sun lounger, uncharacteristically still for hours on end. If I were going to be picky I would say that the scenes depicting intimacy between Wells and his girlfriend were clunky and awkward, as if the writer was not at ease with the scene but as this makes up about a nth of a percent of the story, the point I make is largely moot. However, I did feel that there were quite simply too many named characters. It caused a fair bit of referring back and forth, trying to recall who was who and if they were central to the action and personally, I find having to do that a bit irritating.

I have given The Soul Collector four stars because of the points made above about the cast of thousands and being able to see the join from one book to the other. I initially felt that I may be at a disadvantage for not having read The Death List and if I were not the type to persevere, I may have abandoned the story around page 40 or 50. It is for those reasons that I did not feel able to award it five.

Having read The Soul Collector, a smooth transitory read along a very similar subject matter would be Hell's Fire by Chris Simms or perhaps you might like to have a closer look at Mark Billingham's DI Tom Thorne novels. Otherwise, if you enjoyed Life On Mars and feel inclined towards a trip back in time, then you should take a peep at the highly readable Foxtrot Oscar by Charlie Owen and any of June Hampson's books, which really ought to tickle your fancy.

Bookbag would like to recognise the kindness of the ladies and gentlemen at MIRA Books and thank them for sending this copy to us for review.

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