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Thursday 3 December 2015

‘The Death Collector’ by Neil White

Published by Sphere,
23 July 2015.
ISBN: 978-0-7515-4949-2 (PB)

Joe Parker is a defence lawyer, disenchanted with the daily round of minor crimes and the magistrates’ court and fighting for his job as his bosses try to shut down the criminal side of their business. His brother Sam is a detective constable in the murder squad, unhappy with the way some of his senior officers conduct investigations. Both were motivated to join law-related professions by a murder in their own family some years before this story begins.

Their work paths cross when a young lad goes missing on his way home from the police station after being arrested for a minor offence. The incident opens up quite a can of worms: a probable miscarriage of justice; the disappearance of a young married woman; the discovery of a body on remote moorland; a retired lawyer with an agenda of his own. It becomes plain that all these things are linked, and though Joe and Sam usually work on opposite sides of the law, this time they find they have more than one common goal.

Neil White has assembled an intriguing cast of characters for this, his second novel. Among others there’s Mary, the convicted murderer’s feisty Irish mother; Gina, an ex-policewoman turned lawyer’s clerk, and Kim, a sparky prosecuting attorney; Alice, Sam’s long-suffering wife; and lurking in the background, an unnamed sociopath with a past that has done untold damage. Sam and Joe themselves have enough flaws to make them real and human, but are fundamentally good guys who want to do the right thing, against the odds if necessary: ideal protagonists for a crime series.

The plot is nicely convoluted and well constructed, with an edge-of-the-seat reveal involving a chase across some of England’s bleakest countryside. It’s mostly set against Manchester’s seamier side, and the grim, menacing atmosphere hardly lets up.

The novel has a lot of potential, and Joe and Sam make a good team, with just enough brotherly friction to keep things interesting. There are plenty of threads laid down for future episodes in what could become a long-running series.

It’s a pity, though, that over-long sentences and too much explanation slow the pace and hold up the action. Crisper writing and a little less stating the obvious would be the icing on a tasty cake. 
Reviewer: Lynne Patrick
Neil White was born in 1965 in Mexborough, a small South Yorkshire mining town. The family moved several times. Eventually Neil studied law and gained his law degree in Preston. He is a criminal lawyer and a writer. During the day he goes to court. At night he write’s crime fiction. He says ‘It is as simple as that.’

Lynne Patrick has been a writer ever since she could pick up a pen, and has enjoyed success with short stories, reviews and feature journalism, but never, alas, with a novel. She crossed to the dark side to become a publisher for a few years, and is proud to have launched several careers which are now burgeoning. She lives on the edge of rural Derbyshire in a house groaning with books, about half of them crime fiction.

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