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Reviewed by Steve Leshin for Readers' Favorite
Vincent McNulty is an ex-police detective with a sordid past. Unceremoniously drummed out of the police force of Leeds, West Yorkshire, England after 18 years service for a single act while detaining a suspected child molester, McNulty still thinks of himself as a cop. Once a cop, always a cop. An avid fan of the cinema, he can quote lines from classic American movies like Von Ryan’s Express, The Dirty Dozen and Get Carter that all seem to play a big part in his life. Since he left the force his chief activity, besides movies, is sex. Specifically, sex in massage parlors owned by the Northern X chain. He makes a pilgrimage to a bunch of them to the north of Yorkshire, away from his old police jurisdiction, until he grows tired of the travel, and returns to his old flat. Unable to shake the habit, he still pursues Northern X parlors where he used to go as an undercover cop for the vice squad. However, the torso of a dead woman is found and several teenage masseuses at Northern X sites go missing. McNulty is a patron at all of them. Evidence points to our ex-cop as a prime suspect.
Northern Ex by Colin Campbell is a gritty crime thriller with a bit of a twist. Campbell sprinkles the plot with classic movie references and ties it all together with the classic song, House of the Rising Sun, to take the reader into the inner mind of Vincent McNulty, a flawed character the reader may not be comfortable with at first. Graphic descriptions of what happens as McNulty experiences a ‘massage’ may turn people off. Yet, it lends an authenticity to the story. Campbell writes with flair and you cannot help but be taken with the ex-cop. Campbell carries the scenes at the massage parlors with witty dialogue and a snappy prose style describing rather saucy info on McNulty’s intimate sessions. Secondary characters include a bloke who used to be an informer for McNaulty, when he was still a detective, named Donkey Flowers, a Major Crime unit detective named Tynan, and later a girl named Michelle. Not to give too much away, there is an unctuous and very credible villain and some brutal henchmen. The ending is ... shall I say ... intense? With enough plot twists and turns to keep the action interesting, Northern Ex stands out as a superior crime yarn and a must-read.