Title: Collecting Cooper
Author: Paul Cleave
Release Date: July 26, 2011
Publisher: Atria Books
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 4 out of 5
Theodore Tate is a former cop who’s just been released from prison. He almost killed a teenager, Emma Green, while driving under the influence and has paid the price for it. When Emma’s father shows up on his doorstep once he returns home, he’s sure that Green is there to kill him, but instead, Green asks for Tate’s help. Emma’s disappeared and Tate must find her. Working with the local police, Tate embarks on a search to find what happened to Emma and discovers the truth behind a twisted local mental hospital along the way.
Collecting Cooper is a grisly novel in which two people are kidnapped: Emma and her professor, Cooper Riley, who is a criminal psychology professor. At the beginning, what is happening appears relatively straightforward. The reader sees the novel from different perspectives, Cooper’s and Tate’s, and what is happening seems clear. It’s only as the novel progresses that the reader realizes that their initial assumptions may have been hasty. Cleave unravels the narrative well, making sure to save the twists for when they will be most shocking. It makes for an enjoyable and gripping reading experience.
Tate is an appealing, though damaged main character. It’s clear that the ghosts of his past haunt him; before his jail time, he took refuge in alcohol, but after his accident, he no longer will allow himself that weakness. He barely has it together in Collecting Cooper, and he becomes consumed with discovering what happened to Emma. It’s his penance, his way of making things right with the universe. Through Tate, Cleave also provides an interesting commentary on the state of mental hospitals and the care we provide for those afflicted with mental illnesses.
Collecting Cooper certainly starts off slow. Cleave takes his time putting all the pieces and characters into place before really taking off with the story. Some readers might be turned off by the pace at the beginning of the novel, but it’s worth sticking with the book to see how things play out. Though the jumps between characters and narrators might seem jarring at first, it’s necessary to flesh out the storyline and ensure that everything and everyone is exactly where Cleave wants it. It’s really a masterful piece of storytelling, but that doesn’t become clear until the last pages are turned.
Collecting Cooper is part of a series about Theodore Tate, but I read it as a standalone. Though I was aware when Cleave was filling in the backstory for me, as Tate has a complicated one, I didn’t feel as though I was missing anything by diving straight into this book. If you’re looking for a twisty psychological thriller that contains interesting insights into the minds of serial killers, Collecting Cooper is a good bet.