Pariah, by David Jackson

Review published on April 24, 2012.Reviewed by Sara Garland

Nominated for a CWA Debut Dagger,  Jackson has created a central character called Callum Doyle, a New York Police Department Detective, who, when his police partner is murdered, faces being rejected and ostracized by his NYPD colleagues. His stable force in life is his beautiful and intelligent wife, but even their relationship is threatened by the turn of events that occur because of this murder and the case that follows as a consequence. He starts to receive anonymous messages threatening that anyone who gets close to him will die. Eventually dropped from the case and forced to take a leave of absence from work, things couldn’t get much worse.  But people around him are dying and, desperate to protect his family, he has to remove himself from theirs and the  lives of anyone he knows; subsequently his life hits an all time low.

This is a very dialogue driven book, full of corny one liners and stereotypical American police wise cracks. At the very beginning it felt like a reflection of any one of the ubiquitous American television crime shows that straddle our TV channels, without anything novel or particularly new to offer. However I realised I was too quick to judge, as what soon emerged was a very well-engineered and poised story.

Doyle is probably one of the least bullet proof central crime heroes amongst the crime genre for sometime. He is personable with high moral regard and an Irish wit, that colours the paragraphs with a multitude of wonderful descriptors. Portraying a colleague he passionately dislikes, he refers to his head as having being ‘dipped in iron filings and a magnet pushed them up to his nose, with his grey hair stiff as carpet.’ There is a concise but powerful use of words to depict and set the scene, told in the third person. The plot isn’t predictable and there are a good few twists and unexpected events. Some of the murders are indulgently gruesome, adding to the sinister threat that overshadows his own and his family’s lives. Even the cops that have given Doyle an incredibly hard time transpire to be fallible, if not just a little bit fickle.

In all, the suspense is tangible and intense – you will share Doyle’s  isolation and paranoia and after feeling angry at how his colleagues turn against him, you will want justice for him. But as for the reason why – I doubt you’ll guess it correctly. His second novel, The Helper is due out soon and I imagine will be a good read too.


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