Sarah Reilly is a Special Agent with the FBI. She is following in the footsteps of her semi-retired father, who made his name tracking down a notorious serial killer.
Sarah and her partner and former boyfriend, Drew, are assigned a case out of town. It bears all the hallmarks of a serial killer who murders couples in a specific locale near a lake. For Sarah, a profiler, there is something not quite right about these killings. She can’t put her finger on it, but she feels this is the work of a copycat.
MAELSTROM is a no-apologies thriller. I have to be honest and say thrillers aren’t usually my choice of reading. They work better for me on the big screen than between the pages of a book, but I found myself enjoying MAELSTROM much more than I expected. The there is plenty of action without it being dragged out too much and there’s enough plot to keep non-action people like me reading.
Dedicated thriller-readers will enjoy every action-packed page of MAELSTROM. It is a promising debut novel from Michael MacConnell.
MAELSTROM is a 2008 Ned Kelly nominee for Best First Novel.
Michael MacConnell is Australian and lives on the Central Coast of New South Wales. He has a degree in International Relations, History and Ancient History and currently works in New South Wales law enforcement. His official website is http://www.michaelmacconnell.com/
MAELSTROM - Michael MacConnell
From the Book: Special Agent Sarah Reilly is the daughter of an FBI Legend. Her Father made his reputation hunting down one of America's worst serial killers. Now it's her turn.
Michael MacConnell's debut book MAELSTROM is - paraphrasing his own words - a book designed to appeal to thriller and crime fiction devotees; not falling into the trap of being too similar to other authors in either genre. So I read MAELSTROM with that aim in mind.
It's definitely a thriller style book - there is lots of fast paced action combined with a sinister, lurking vigilante presence - metering out their version of justice to killers - people that the vigilante's think need to be removed from society. The background of this vigilante group is slowly revealed and there's a wealthy man funding the group for what he believes are noble and true reasons. There's a sense of menace and extreme violence in their acts, there's definitely a sense of forcing those killers to face their enemy on more equal ground - giving them some sort of perceived chance - more than they ever gave their victims.
There's also elements of crime fiction in the book in that there is a serial killer with a standard modus operandi - killing violently, seemingly randomly - but there is a pattern that can be discerned and clues to his methods if the investigators dig. There's a copycat killer - muddying the waters of the investigations, threatening the very lives of all the investigation team.
There's also the beautiful, young FBI agent - Sarah - with her mane of red gold hair. She has to live up to the reputation of her father, and to complicate her life even more, the reputation of her lover - a fellow agent - well known and well liked.
Maybe it is a "girl thing" but this constant idea that every female character has got to be physically attractive and that state has to be commented on is getting boring. As is the idea of the menacing vigilante team - working outside, around and above the law by dint of the amount of money that the team "leader" has (can a vigilante team ever just be a bunch of average people who have just had enough - but that's digression.)
Not to say there's not some good things in this book - the quiet menace of the opening segment is truly sobering. The first appearance of the vigilante group is shocking. They seem to appear from nowhere - for a short while the reader is slightly wrong-footed. There's romantic attachment, which, despite a deep feeling of foreboding, was actually handled well - with a slightly different twist which was refreshing. But there are also some things that don't work - the use of Australian terminology by American characters jars, the appearance of the beautiful FBI agent; the motivation, structure and behaviour of a team of vigilantes that seem to be able to commit mass violence and then just disappear was just that bit too far of a credulity stretch.
Whether or not MAELSTROM meets the authors aim is going to be very much to the individual reader's taste.