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Ripper - Michael Slade

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Genre: Crime / Thriller / Author: Michael Slade / Paperback / 416 Pages / Book is published 1994-06 by New American Library

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      06.04.2009 01:04
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      A group of amateur sleuth crime writers are summoned to an island and picked off one by one....

      Ripper is the fourth novel written by a team of Canadian Lawyers under the pseudonym of Michael Slade and is, without question, my favourite of all their earlier thrillers save perhaps for their debut, Head Hunter. Taking place five years after the events of Cutthroat, this new novel catches up with the old and familiar characters of Chief Superintendant Robert De Clerq and former Police Inspector Zinc Chandler; Zinc currently on sick leave following a gun-shot to the head that nearly killed him which has now left him suffering from Epilepsy and a mere shadow of his former self....

      Zinc has had it hard recently; his mother, young son, ex-girlfriend and fiancee were all killed, Zinc himself nearly lost his life and was caught up in an Internal investigation by Hong Kong authorities and now, because of Political unrest and medical concerns, he is being kept from returning to the only thing he has left: his job!

      De Clerq begins to suffer flashbacks to the Head Hunter case when the body of an active American Feminist is found hung from a bridge, her face skinned. Two more murders take place with the bodies this time being left in sites used by The Head Hunter to taunt the Canadian Mounted Police all those years ago; then a book is discovered, a small-time recently-released thriller, which depicts crimes very similar to those that have already occurred. The book seems obsessed with a mythical trunk once used by Jack The Ripper and the occult practices of one Aleister Crowley, so it is in that direction that the investigation begins to follow. This gives Team Slade ample oppotunity to demonstrate their extensive Ripper knowledge and expound some very clever, plausible and well-researched theories....once again, Michael Slade prove that theirs are more than just your average thrillers, aiming as they do to educate and enlighten as well as entertain. This is in part what makes these books so slick- the fact that these guys are keen to demonstrate that they know exactly what they are talking about and do it so well in keeping with the context of the story and plot...

      Zinc Chandler, meanwhile, agrees to do De Clerq a favour- perhaps leading to a sly route back into the ranks of the RCMP Special X division. Elvira Franklen, an old woman fans met briefly in Head Hunter, has organised a mystery murder weekend at an undisclosed location and has asked Robert De Clerq to supply a real-life Detective to go along with her guest-list of mystery sleuth writers. De Clerq obviously cannot go, caught up as he is in his investigation, and reccommends Chandler. Chandler is at first reluctant but sees it as a good opportunity to test his mental skills; the only thing he has yet to hone after the last few years recuperating and building himself back up to, as close as can be, his original physical fitness. Franklen is a charming character and her presence is a welcome return; all of her many cats are named after fictional Detectives- Maigret, Poirot, Miss Marple- and her walls are decorated with signed photos of all her favourite crime authors.

      The mystery weekend is set, it turns out, on a long abandoned island and it is not long before the stage is set for Slade's own interpretation of Christie's 10 Little Indians. It is not long before the sleuth writers are getting picked off one-by-one by a series of booby traps and a pair of ingenious and cleverly disguised killers, and all of them are forced to rely on their wits and knowledge of locked-room mystery plots in order to survive. When the person or persons responsible for the game of cat and mouse then remove Zinc's Epilepsy medication, it becomes a race against time to discover the guilty party before his fits kick in.....

      This is very much a book in two parts: the first is very much De Clerq's domain in your typical Police investigation familiar to fans of Slade's writing; the second part is very much a homage to all the great thriller writers such as Dickinson, Conan Doyle et all and very well concieved and envisioned. Anyone who enjoys traditional, classic crime fiction will get a real buzz out of trying to second-guess the killer(s?) before the big Scooby Doo reveal moment. The plot's twists and turns and it's brillant pastiche all combine to make this almost their best book yet and, even if you don't read any of the others, I defy you not to enjoy reading this one which can be read as a stand-alone but fits in even better as the continuation of an excellent series!

      How Slade is not better known, I do not know and it leaves me inconsolable that my earlier review of Cutthroat didn't get more ratings. One of the reasons I started re-reading these books recently, apart from the fact that I throughly enjoy them, was because I wanted to share how brilliant these books are with a new group of potential fans. Certainly, there are very few thrillers as well written as these and this is a prime example of the best of their work!!!

      I don't think I have ever read a series so consistently high standard in a long time and, it almost seems with these early books, that they just get better and better. These are thrillers that often make you think about topics from a new and intersting angle whilst stil keeping you on the edge of your seat and anyone who hasn't read them should really try to pick these up!!

      INTERESTING FACT: this book was going to be called Skull And Crossbones until someone asked Team Slade if their latest novel was going to be a Pirate adventure at which point, they changed the name. This is also the last of these books to retain it's original name. Successive books were published under different names in the States which they have since adopted for their latest U.K editions.

      Check out my other reviews of Slade's previous novels, Head Hunter, Ghoul and Cutthroat, for more information on the series......

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