Special Agent Sarah Reilly is involved in an operation to capture a serial killer targeting prostitutes. Just as she is about to land her man, mysterious figures swoop in and nab the killer for themselves, spiriting him away and later killing him.
Before she can investigate these vigilantes, Sarah and her partner Special Agent Drew Dyson are called to the scene of the latest homicide of a serial killer dubbed The Lakeshore Killer. Both agents and police chief Seth Adams are convinced there is something not quite right about the scene.
With the help of Sarah's father Harry Reilly, they deduce that it is actually the work of a copycat. As it happens, Harry - who is a highly regarded former FBI agent after capturing a vicious serial killer - believes that this copycat has been operating undetected for decades, using the modus operandi of other serial killers to hide his own crimes.
Eventually, their hunt for this killer becomes personal, and their case inevitably collides with that of the mysterious vigilante team that has been murdering serial killers.
While you can't deny that "Maelstrom" moves quickly, it doesn't move quickly enough that you can't overlook how utterly ridiculous all of it is. It begins as a fairly typical, cliched and unoriginal serial killer thriller before steadily becoming more and more ludicrous as it races towards its finale. I certainly wasn't expecting a showdown involving vigilante Afghanistan war veterans versus a serial killer who suddenly had numerous mafioso enforcers acting as sentries, but that's what I got here.
While I'm pleased that the book wasn't dull, my willing suspension of disbelief can only go so far. "Maelstrom" doesn't ask you to just suspend disbelief. It asks you to snap it in two and throw it right out the window. I found it difficult to get into a story that was so far-fetched, which detracted from otherwise efficiently written action sequences. Eventually I felt like I was reading a novelisation of a bad "A Team" episode, or a bad 90s direct-to-video action potboiler.
Characters are perfunctory for this sort of thriller, though none are inherently dislikeable. The main serial killer - dubbed the Violet-Eyed Man - could learn the art of "Shut The F*** Up", that's for sure. He's also not the most consistent character to be found here - for a guy who has operated under the radar for decades, he certainly doesn't seem to mind suddenly announcing his presence to all and sundry and enlisting the aid of the mafia (!) to achieve his goals.
Yes, "Maelstrom" moves quickly and has plenty of action. It would make a hell of a film (or a bad "A Team" episode, I guess, depending on the director). Just don't expect a shred of believability.