Book Review: The Collector by Fiona Cummins
In her sequel to Rattle, Fiona Cummins launches the reader back into the world of Detective Sergeant Fitzroy and her pursuit of “The Bone Collector.”
Detective Sergeant Etta Fitzroy continues the search for the serial killer, aptly nicknamed “The Bone Collector” because of his obsession with unusual human skeletons. Brian Howley was raised to care more for the skeletal structure of people than for people themselves, and he was taught how to murder to grow the family collection. After Fitzroy escaped Howley’s clutches, exposed him, and destroyed the work that took his family generation to build, Howley swore his vengeance.
Now he’s living under an assumed name amidst the people he plans to use to rebuild his life’s work, including one victim he managed to hold on to before Fitzroy ruined everything. Clara Foyle is running out of time and Fitzroy knows it. But will she be able to decipher Howley’s taunting clues and evade his deadly traps in time to save the little girl?
In the sequel to her debut thriller Rattle, Fiona Cummins has written a novel of acute psychological insight into the minds of hunters and hunted. Howley is a twisted, fascinating creation, driven by his past as much as by his desires for the future. Ms. Cummins details his psychosis lyrically, such as in this scene, in which Howley visits the imprisoned Clara:
Her cleft hands rest in her lap, unbound. His eyes linger on their curves.
It excites him in ways he cannot explain.
His own fingers twitch, an unsettled, restless dance. He misses his X-ray machine, with its ability to expose the secrets beneath the skin, to capture the distortions and incursions. No matter. What is done cannot be undone. And black-and-white photographs are no substitute for the purity, for the feel of unsheathed bone.
While many of the important characters featured in Rattle return in these pages, I was especially taken with some of the new people introduced, particularly the elegant Detective Constable Toni Storm as well as the clever, tortured Saul Anguish. Only a teenager, Saul has the burden of an alcoholic mother and a life of near-desperate poverty. He’s a young man filled with the conflicting impulses of rage and love, and nowhere is this more evident than on the night he sees his mother stumble drunkenly and fall into the surf on her way home. He expects her to pick herself up:
But his mother lay still, her jaw loose and slightly open, her black hair spread out like seaweed.
Like strands of wool.
The tide, almost home, was lapping at the hem of her coat, like an over-familiar friend. In the time it would take Saul to tie his laces, to run down the stairs of their flat, across the road, past the benches with their memorial plaques and dying roses, and down the steep steps to the beach, his mother’s lungs could be filling up with saltwater.
Or perhaps, if he tried really hard, he might reach her just as the bitter liquid trickled into her mouth.
But Saul found his feet were stuck to the stained carpet, that although his eyes were fixed on the shape of his mother, he could not move.
Saul’s involvement in the proceedings is my favorite part of this novel, especially since his actions and motivations can be so difficult to predict. He’s the highlight of what is already a very well-written thriller. The twists and turns come hard and fast as Ms. Cummins involves characters old and new in her tale of gruesome terror, leading to an exceptionally satisfying ending. While some die and others plan on moving away, I’m rather hoping this isn’t the end for our courageous crew, and look forward to more of Ms. Cummins’ work in the future.