Review: Collecting Cooper

People are disappearing in Christchurch. Cooper Riley, a psychology professor, doesn’t make it to work one day. Emma Green, one of his students, doesn’t make it home. When ex-cop Theodore Tate is released from a four-month prison stint, he’s asked by Green’s father to help find Emma. After all, Tate was in jail for nearly killing her in a DUI accident the year before, so he owes him. Big time. What neither of them knows is that a former mental patient is holding people prisoner as part of his growing collection of serial killer souvenirs. Now he has acquired the ultimate collector’s item—an actual killer.

Meanwhile, clues keep pulling Tate back to Grover Hills, the mental institution that closed down three years ago. Very bad things happened there. Those who managed to survive would prefer keeping their memories buried. Tate has no choice but to unearth Grover Hills’ dark past if there is any chance of finding Emma Green and Cooper Riley alive.

Collecting Cooper is the first book by Paul Cleave that I have read. A little research tells me that all of his books are set in Christchurch, New Zealand. Cleave portrays Christchurch as the worst place on earth to live, a city full of serial killers and people down on their luck. It made me wonder if Christchurch is as desolate a place as portrayed. Apparently, Cleave is asked this question often. From his website:

In your books, you make Christchurch look very bleak. Is the city really that way? Or do you just see it that way?

This is something I get asked a lot. Christchurch is a fantastic city, I love living here, and I don’t see it in the dark way I write about it. I take everything bad I’ve learned about Christchurch and I exaggerate it for the books to create an atmosphere more suitable for a crime novel. Remember, it’s not me who sees Christchurch so darkly – it’s the characters. The books are written from the point of view of a serial killer, or from characters who have suffered and are still suffering, whose lives are in danger. Christchurch is nowhere as bad as I paint it to be – but it definitely has its dark underbelly, and it’s absolutely a perfect backdrop for my characters to live and play in. I like having Christchurch as a ‘character’ in the books now, almost an entity that makes the other players behave badly.

Cleave has written a page turner full of disturbing violence and mentally unstable characters. The story is told from alternating character perspectives, including Emma Green, Theodore Tate, Cooper Riley and Adrian Loaner – the former mental patient. As a reader, I felt for Tate despite his questionable past. What I did not realize is that Tate is featured in Cleave’s other books. The books are not portrayed as a series but apparently some characters overlap. I would like to read Cleave’s other books to learn more about Tate’s history before he went to jail.

Collecting Cooper is out on July 26th, and I definitely recommend this read to anyone who enjoys reading about crime/serial killers and can stomach reading about violent crime. The one aspect that got to me is that animals are killed in the story. I can read about violence towards people, but I am sensitive to violence towards animals. Go figure.

Many thanks to the publisher, Simon & Schuster, for providing me with a free e-Galley for review, via Galley Grab.

Book: Collecting Cooper | Author: Paul Cleave | Published: Simon & Schuster; July 26, 2011 | Format: e-Galley | Source: NetGalley | Rating: 4 out of 5
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