Review

The Death Collectors

by Jack Kerley

It
would be inaccurate to say that THE DEATH COLLECTORS by Jack Kerley
fulfills the promise of the talent that was so vividly demonstrated
in his debut novel, THE HUNDREDTH MAN. That riveting work, told in
a strong, confident narrative and peopled with quietly
unforgettable characters, demonstrated a well of talent that
obviously ran deep and strong. THE DEATH COLLECTORS reaffirms that
demonstration, not only by magnifying the strengths of its
predecessor but by ultimately surpassing them, mixing a memorable
protagonist with a host of quirky and occasionally unsettling
supporting characters in a work where the present and the past
collide with terrifying results.

THE DEATH COLLECTORS marks the welcome return of Carson Ryder and
Harry Nautilus, the sum total of the Mobile, Alabama Police
Department's Psychopathological and Sociopathological Investigative
Team (PSIT). On the surface Ryder and Nautilus are a mismatch, yet
their respective zigs and zags interlock them perfectly. Their PSIT
work, alas, only involves one percent of their caseload. But when a
woman is found brutally murdered at a by-the-hour hotel, the staged
nature of the killing makes it a natural for their
investigation.

The men soon discover that the murder, and others that follow, bear
an eerie link to Marsden Hexcamp, a homicidal Pied Piper who led a
sheeplike troop of followers on a homicidal rampage through the
Gulf Coast over thirty years previously. Hexcamp has been dead for
three decades, yet he almost seems to be directing the new murders
from his grave. The trail leads Ryder and Nautilus to a missing
attorney with an apparent link to the murders, as well as to a
number of eerie individuals involved in the collecting of serial
killing memorabilia.

Ryder and Nautilus reluctantly accept some assistance in their
search from DeeDee Danbury, a local television reporter whose
attraction to Ryder is not limited to professional matters. What
Ryder, Nautilus and Danbury don't realize is that they are closer
to the source of the murders than any of them can imagine --- and
Ryder, particularly, is on the verge of being the final victim of a
killer long deceased.

Kerley has a talent that is simply amazing; I can think of no other
appropriate word for it. His work has the feel and sense of a
bright, illuminating polish, one that will provide a reflection
capable of scaring the heck out of you. Yet there is a folksiness
about Ryder and Nautilus that makes them two of the more accessible
characters operating in contemporary detective fiction. There is a
laid-back quality to them, perhaps imbibed by their Gulf Coast
backdrop, which makes them endearing while providing a subtle
relief to the dark nature of the subject matter of their
cases.

Kerley, and THE DEATH COLLECTORS, will give the reader grim but
beautiful nightmares.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 12, 2011

The Death Collectors
by Jack Kerley

  • Publication Date: June 23, 2005
  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Dutton Adult
  • ISBN-10: 0525948775
  • ISBN-13: 9780525948773