Cold Call by Colin L. Chapman

Following my last blog post on my new approach to reading, I had a lovely tweet from Colin L. Chapman asking me to give his debut novel a try. After asking so politely, how could I not!

So I downloaded Cold Call. As with my last two reading experiences, I wasn’t sure I was going to enjoy it, judging from the description of the type of book it was (50 Shades of Grey meets Martina Cole was one description), but I read it nonetheless, determined to keep an open mind until I’d read the book.

Cold Call is an emotionally detached novel about a sexually debauched, middle-aged man who uses the services of prostitutes for pleasure and control, and follows the activities of the police and forensic specialists who have to investigate the vilest of murders.

One of the main protagonists, Robin Bradford, is a disgusting excuse of a man, whose luck has changed for the worst professionally, to the point where everything he owns is in his girlfriend’s name and his girlfriend is working as a caravan cleaner to make ends meet, yet he is spending time and money trawling the sex ads at the back of his magazines. Violent and insulting to the prostitutes he visits, his misogynistic limits know no bounds. His excuse for his actions is mainly the lack of sexual attention from his girlfriend Lizzie, who was with him when times were good and has stuck by him when times were bad, for all it was worth.

Vincent Ambrose, the detective in charge of the investigation, is not particularly likeable either, really. He is quite arrogant and a little chauvinistic too, but ultimately good at his job. His colleagues are a fairly average bunch and get the job done, mainly, whilst allowing themselves to be occasionally distracted by personal agendas or ambition rather than the job at hand, although this adds an extra sense of realism to the story.

I’m not going to go into detail about the plot as that would ruin it for future readers, of which I am positive there will be many, but the tone of the novel is more journalistic than story-telling. Although the plot is not really similar, the style reminded me of Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary, in that there are no likeable characters to become attached to or cheer on, and if they were all to get blown up at the end of the book, there are unlikely to be any tears. A sense of ennui engulfs each and every character to a certain extent, and the detachment of the narrator further encourages the sense of languidness in each character.

Yet I felt compelled to read on despite having figured out fairly early on where the story was going to go (lucky guess, perhaps). Unlike Madame Bovary, which, quite frankly, bored me after a while, I did get caught up in the action, wanting the perpetrators to get their come-uppance, intrigued by the missed clues, which are relayed to the reader as missed opportunities to catch the criminal, bang-to-rights. The novel is extremely well written and the bits that made me uncomfortable as a reader were meant to make me feel that way in order to appreciate the reactions of the other characters. By the end of the novel, I wanted to know what happens next.

Nothing in this novel is arbitrary. Every little nuance is relevant. The brutality of the murders and the sexual assaults suffered by the women in question is described as such for a reason, which is why, as hard as it was to read personally, I understood the purpose of the graphic, often seedy descriptions. I’m really not sure there are any real similarities to 50 Shades of Grey; the complete lack of any romantic overtones rules out any connection for me (plus Cold Call is written better), although I can see the similarities to Martina Cole from what I remember of the one novel of hers that I read a few years ago.

For me, this book wasn’t really to my tastes, to be honest. However, from a literary point of view, I can recognise that it has many merits if you enjoy this genre of novels. It is really well written and the detached omniscient narrator stance works very well for this type of novel. If you are a fan of gritty crime novels, you will love Cold Call, and I would recommend you give it a go if you wanted to test your mettle for this genre of book. I’m glad I did.