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Maelstrom by Michael MacConnell
From the Dustjacket
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.
A monster is cruising the east coast. One who has stalked the United States for three decades, claiming countless victims. A chameleon who has found a fatal flaw in the forensic profiler's art.
At the same time, someone is hunting down and eliminating serial killers with mechanical precision. A hunter with uncanny skill, limitless resources and lethal determination.
With the serial killer's interest in Sarah growing, and the hunter drawing closer to his ultimate prey, time is running out. To save what is most precious to her, Sarah will have to enter the maelstrom or face her darkest fears.
Publisher : Hachette Australia
First published : 2007
ISBN-13 : 9780733621871
No. Pages : 386 pages
If ever nervous excitement were typified in an opening scene of a book it is done superbly well in Maelstrom, the action / thriller debut of Australian author Michael MacConnell. The prospect of getting his end away in a secluded waterfront cabin proves too distracting for the young driver whose inattention to the road brings him (and his girlfriend) to the notice of a waiting predator. The results are horribly gruesome and set the tone for an amazing story that initially puts you in mind of the many serial killer stories before hitting you full in the face with an outrageous plot twist.
A copycat killer is active along the US east coast mimicking the crimes committed by past serial killers. He has been at it for decades, confident in his ability to blend into his surroundings without leaving a trace that could be linked back to him. He believes that no-one knows that the same person is responsible for the countless murders he has committed for so many years, but that confidence is misplaced.
Sarah Reilly is an outstanding young agent with the FBI, finishing top in her class at Quantico she's a detective with an uncanny ability to read both people and a crime scene with tremendous accuracy. She is also the daughter of former FBI agent Harry Reilly, a legend in the Bureau who was responsible for some high profile apprehensions of particularly vicious serial killers.
While in the process of taking down a suspected killer who had been preying on Boston prostitutes, Sarah has her man taken literally out from under her by a team of Shadow Men. The unknown assailants took her captive in an extremely confrontational manner, blasting Sarah with a taser to render her helpless before setting the man loose. The next time she sees her erstwhile captive he is a corpse having been burned almost beyond recognition.
This is our introduction to a team of former Special Forces men who are also out hunting serial killers. However, unlike the FBI, these guys are intent on achieving one thing, the death of their quarry and they are particularly efficient at their job.
Back to the copycat killer, who we know as the Violet-Eyed Man, and we discover that he's not nearly as clever nor proficient as he thinks he is. While investigating his latest piece of work, Sarah and her partner Drew come face to face with the killer narrowly failing to apprehend him, barely escaping with their lives. The encounter is a wake up call to the Violet-Eyed Man who targets Sarah - and, by extension, her father - completely unaware that his biggest danger could be coming from an entirely unexpected direction.
For Sarah, her problems are twofold. Not only does she face the daunting prospect of tracking down a long time killer who has evaded the police for decades, but she is now aware of the rogue hunters. This maverick group obviously have access to sensitive FBI information and must be bankrolled by a wealthy source given the equipment they use. They have also proven that they are prepared to kill to ensure their anonymity.
There is no settling in period to ease the reader into the book. From the moment the first murder takes place the pace is frenetic and possibilities seem endless. The US appears to be rife with serial killers and the FBI investigations are constant, but so is the work of the mysterious killer-hunters.
There is a refreshing uniqueness to the story which takes the well worn serial killer scenario, grabs it by the nose and then gives it a vicious twist. The idea of serial offenders being ruthlessly hunted down is perversely appealing to me.
Michael MacConnell writes with a highly engaging style choosing to rope his readers in with scenes of great drama. It's only when you're hooked that he begins to provide some (but not too much) background detail on his main characters. The scant information we glean into the life of Sarah and her father gives us just enough insight into their psyches to provide us with an affinity towards them, giving us more of a reason to side with them (rather than the rogue hunters, for example).
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