The Puppet Master
by David A. Xavier
Trafford Publishing

"Questions exploded into my head. How many of these people were there? What could they do? How dangerous could they be? How would you find one if he did not want to be discovered? The simple fact that these people existed, and that there was some kind of black ops police force dedicated to combatting them would normally have me impressed and excited. Thing is, I was in the middle of it all, and that made it different."

Xavier's debut novel begins in modern day London with two dead in an apparent murder-suicide. The details of the gruesome crime bother Detective Sergeant Oliver Soames, and after submitting his report to Detective Chief Superintendent Kwaku, he is inducted into a mysterious police force known as the Metropolitan Special Circumstances Executive. Operating under a cloak of secrecy, the MSCE is tasked with hunting perpetrators with rare, special talents and whom the MSCE call "Strangers." The MSCE subtly takes over when the Metropolitan Police Service is not equipped to handle the case and seamlessly blends in while taking charge of the investigation.

As the newest recruit, Soames chases a potential serial killer with a seemingly dangerous ability for mind control, deftly forcing the victims to commit horrific acts. Working alongside the abrasive and anti-social Mr. Harding and PC "Sniffer" Norton, who has a kind of sixth sense about crime scenes, Soames desperately searches for a connection between the victims in order to catch the elusive killer. He's also burdened with the inability to freely discuss the true nature of the investigation, walking a tightrope line with the MSCE while at the risk of alienating his closest friends and allies.

The Puppet Master is an unusual novel. Xavier lends an air of spookiness to an otherwise typical police procedural, demonstrating his ability to craft a unique, supernatural tale. Interestingly, Xavier shifts between first-person and third-person in the novel. While primarily seen through Oliver Soames' eyes, it's the third-person sections where the victims suffer from harrowing mind manipulation that are more affecting and where Xavier's writing shines, giving credence to his storytelling power.

David A. Xavier is the pen name of playwright, David Kingsmill, who wrote The Puppet Master during National Novel Writing Month (an accomplishment very few can boast of). In what appears to be the first in a trilogy of MSCE Investigation novels, we certainly have more to look forward to from this emerging and promising new novelist.

RECOMMENDED by the US Review

Return to USR Home