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Macken, John - 'Control'
Paperback: 384 pages (Feb. 2010) Publisher: Bantam Press ISBN: 0593061454

GeneCrime, is a high-tech forensic laboratory led by Reuben Maitland and attached to the UK police force. After earlier being suspended from his police post, (his earlier adventures are recounted in the previous three books), his life was in a mess, professionally and personally - he now lives apart from his wife and young son, but has restored his reputation and been given his old job back. However, his brilliant invention of "predictive phenotyping", by which a tissue sample can be analysed to provide an image of the person from whom it came (pure science fiction I'm told), keeps the lab afloat.

There has been a terrible murder in which the victim has had the tips of his fingers sawn off and has been left to bleed to death. Whilst the victim is still alive, the killer places the finger tips into a small cage within the victims sight, in which is a rat which then feeds on the finger tips, causing even more distress to the victim.

Within a couple of days a further two victims are discovered all with their finger tips sawn off with a hacksaw and with similar scenes of crime. Reuben gets into his work mode and is soon organising his team to diagnose and identify all forensic clues from the scene of the crime. Anyway, all is going along very well until one day whilst Reuben is in his office at GeneCrime he gets a disturbing phone-call on his mobile from a man claiming to be the "finger tip killer" and who orders him to halt the investigation or at least steer it in a different direction. Reuben asks whus he sohould do so and the caller says - if you don't I will kill your baby son whom I have here. Reuben, has no idea that his son is missing and asks to speak to him and the caller allows him. When, he hangs up a deeply troubled Reuben immediately contacts his ex-wife and is shocked to hear her distress as she recounts how their baby was snatched whilst she was shopping.

Reuben is in a dreadful quandary, does he deliberately order his team on a wild goose chase in order to mask the killer's trail and thereby protect his son or does he actively hunt the killer and perhaps discover him faster than his GeneCrime team can. Reuben decides to follow the latter course and to this end he sets up a second laboratory in his home garage and smuggles samples of the forensic clues there. He asks some friends from his earlier days to help him. Unfortunately, he has the police breathing down his neck as they are very suspicious of him because he had to serve some time in the prison system (recounted in an earlier book TRIAL BY BLOOD) and they believe he may still be a 'wrong 'un'. Reuben is again suspended from his job as his superiors feel that he cannot be expected to concentrate on locating the "finger tip killer" whilst the worry of his lost son haunts him. This story zooms on at a breakneck pace until the final denouement. This book is unputdownable until the final page.

I had previously read TRIAL BY BLOOD and very much enjoyed that one and this story is of a similar high standard. However, to truly enjoy such stories you have to suspend your disbelief that such incredible events could happen to one man so many times. This I'm beginning to find hard to grasp as the tension is wound tighter and tighter and whilst Macken is a superb writer with the scientific credentials to make his research truly authoritative to a non-scientific reader such as I am, would he have the same effect on a reader with some knowledge of the subject?

The strength of CONTROL is in the very tight plotting and the author's scientific knowledge which has yet to fail him. It is an absorbing, satisfying book and whilst you are reading it the hours just slip away and what could be more satisfying than that? My only caveat was that I thought that it was rather unnecessarily violent. Despite what I wrote above about being less able to suspend disbelief, I look forward to reading Reuben's future adventures.

Terry Halligan, England
April 2010

Details of the author's other books with links to reviews can be found on the Books page.
More European crime fiction reviews can be found on the Reviews page.

last updated 29/04/2010 19:36