It never ceases to amaze me that we have British and Irish authors who set their novels in the US. Some are better than others and David Jackson falls into the camp of the better and one that purveys authenticity. I think I am right in saying that R J Ellory had not set foot in the US before setting his novels there, finding his inspiration in the TV series he watched when growing up. Jackson’s inspiration came from American novels he’d read and in particular, Ed McBain’s, whom he describes as ‘the late, great’.
As an academic, you can expect keen attention to detail from Jackson. Tick that box. You may also fear some turgid prose from an academic used to writing papers. If this is the case, swallow that thought with a big swig of bourbon for it appears that Jackson has two heads on his shoulders: one is the academic and the other is of the organically creative fired up with adrenaline. Jackson can write a fast-paced thriller and should be proud to stand alongside his heroes.
Pariah opens with NYPD detective Callum Doyle’s partner murdered. His replacement is also killed and at this stage Doyle falls under suspicion. Then an anonymous message arrives:
So how does it feel? Have you realized yet what is happening to you? I hope so. I hope you’re not such a lousy detective that you could still possibly be thinking that this is all just mere coincidence.
It hurts, doesn’t it? When people you know die. And not just people. Your colleagues. Your friends.
I understand, because I’ve been there. In fact, I’m still there. Alone. Painfully alone.
You put me there, Doyle. You put me into a state of isolation more hellish than any prison. You destroyed my links with humanity.
And now it’s your turn. I’m cutting you off, Doyle. From now on, you’re on your own.
Start enjoying your own company.
Want to know more? Well you’ll have to read it. Where Doyle is the target and focus of revenge we have a good and original spin on making him the one to whom it is not meted out directly. For Doyle, it quickly becomes a scenario of ‘every second counts’ as he also deals with the feelings of guilt and responsibility, as well having to trawl through and come to terms with his past.
At the start, I compared Jackson with Ellory for they both deliver immaculate authenticity that defies the ‘write what you know’ guidance if an author has to live in a chosen setting. But where Ellory is more literary in style, Jackson is commercial; and Jackson’s commercial is as gripping and tense as those he aspires to. If you feel like something new after Michael Connelly et al, try Jackson. And I challenge you to find a hole in the NY doughnut that is Jackson’s authenticity of place and culture. You’ll be searching through the sprinkles when you get your breath back.