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Regis H. Schilken

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Book Review: Collecting Cooper by Paul Cleave (5 stars)
By Regis H. Schilken
Last edited: Tuesday, July 30, 2013
Posted: Saturday, July 16, 2011

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Collecting Cooper leaves no doubt in my mind that Paul Cleave can spook the hell out of you.

I found his book fascinating right from the very beginning. Filled with scenes that are grotesque, tortuous, and deadly, at the same time, his tale is indeed realistic and descriptive.

That’s what makes it so frightening—the bizarre incidents in this tale could happen. Former officer, Theodore Tate, has just been released from prison. Because he injured young Emma in an automobile accident while driving DUI, he spent a short time in prison. Hopefully reformed, upon his release, Tate is immediately drawn back into detective work even though he cannot be reinstated as a police officer.

To his utter shock, he learns that the very Emma he injured in his horrific accident has gone missing. Emma’s injuries had healed, so now Tate feels he owes it to her and her family to find her. In spite of adamant refusals to help local police, eventually Tate takes on the case knowing how he’d feel if Emma were his own daughter. Tate had lost his daughter in an earlier car crash involving a DUI. Now the ex-cop lives alone.

Tate begins checking the files of others who have disappeared in Christchurch. Police have records of serial killers in that area. Tate starts his investigation. In addition to Emma, a college professor has vanished—his home burnt to the ground. Little does Tate know that the professor has been collected by a serial killer and has been imprisoned in the Scream Room of an abandoned, decaying mental institution called Grover Hills.

The serial killer has caught, imprisoned, tortured and then killed others at Grover Hills. Now, Professor Cooper must find a way to escape imprisonment and what he sees as eventual death. He begins to attack his captor psychologically. He feeds back to this killer exactly what he wants to hear. But when the two become semi-friends, the suspicious serial murderer torches the professor’s home.

Meanwhile, ex-officer Tate keeps examinaning and then manipulating clues, hoping to find either Emma or the Professor Cooper before either or both are tortured and murdered. The killer had been an in-patient at the Grover Hills asylum and imprisons his captives in the abandoned basement Scream Room. As Tate draws closer, he finds that his one true friend, his prized cat, has been murdered. After an emotional burial of the feline, only a few days later, ex-officer Tate returns home to find the cat exhumed and hanging near the front door to his home.

But is the collected Professor Cooper able to deal with his killer captor? What allows him to read the mind of this demented man so easily? Maybe this professor is more than just a college teacher. Maybe the professor has fallen into a mental trap deliberately set by the mad serial killer to bait him.

And what will Tate do as his investigation brings him closer and closer to these two men and a young woman collected by the deranged serial killer? Will Tate fall into the same trap and be collected? Will he mentally and physically sustain himself—after all, he carries no authority. His past police record haunts his every move along with the memory of his own deceased daughter.

If you are looking for a horror story that frightens, scares, and beguiles your thinking, I recommend Collecting Cooper as a top notch tale. Its characters, as loathsome as they are, are well developed. These are not people you’d like to meet or befriend. When I finished reading Collecting Cooper, I couldn’t help but think of some of the atrocious characters roaming loose in our society who, by all means, should be locked away in an institution, but should never endure the torments that the clients in Grover Hills suffered.

In Pennsylvania, much has been done to return mental patients to half-way houses and then into society's mainstream. The State no longer funds permanent institutions. Collecting Cooper will make you want to pester legislators to fund and reopen such places while keeping a watchdog eye on care and treatment of the seemingly subhuman! Hats off to Paul Cleave and his truly scary book.




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