Source: Review copy
Publication: 8th August 2019 from Zaffre Books
Renowned surgeon Michael Trenchard locks his office door and prepares for a relaxing evening. But what follows is a living nightmare when later he is discovered in a locked-in coma, the victim of an auto-erotic asphyxiation.
It is left to Doctor Kash Devan, Trenchard’s young protégé, to uncover the truth. And what he discovers is chilling . . .
In his ruthless pursuit of wealth and success, Trenchard has left a trail of wrecked lives, and angry people, behind him. Which of Trenchard’s victims hated him so much that they wanted to ruin not only his reputation, but his life as well?
Not all doctors are heroes . . .
I do love a good medical thriller and in Control, Hugh Montgomery has given us a well paced and chilling thriller with all the elements required to make the reader wonder if they ever want to endure a stay in hospital again.
Kash Devan is a junior doctor at the Victory Hospital. It is all he has ever wanted to do and despite the incredibly long hours, the lack of sleep and the constant stress from making life and death decisions in the early stage of his career, he would not change his life for the world.
Kash is assigned to the team of Consultant Surgeon Mr Michael Trenchard. Trenchard is smooth, suave and inspires respect. He is handsome and caring and he has some useful survival tips for Kash, who hangs on his every word.
Not everyone in the hospital is enamoured of Mr Trenchard’s bedside manner, though. As in all intense workplaces, gossip is rife and it seems that Mr Trenchard is a bit of a Lothario – and as if that were not enough, he also maintains surgeon’s privileges at a nearby private hospital.
Kash picks up hints here and there that Trenchard isn’t everyone’s favourite surgeon, but that doesn’t diminish his enthusiasm for his mentor.
Then one evening when Kash is on call, his pager erupts with an urgent message to – unusually – go to Trenchard’s office. There he finds Trenchard comatose, on the floor wearing a bra and panties and with a noose round his neck. This looks like an erotic game gone wrong and it doesn’t take long before Trenchard’s reputation is trashed and his exploits the subject of tabloid fodder. The medical team check all his vital signs and believe him to be in a vegetative coma. In fact, as Kash discovers while tending to him, Trenchard is ‘locked-in’; that is he is alive and his brain is functioning, but he is unable to move a muscle, or speak. Kash suspects that Trenchard has been the victim of a cruel assault and determines to find out who has done this.
The story is told by Kash, our naïve junior doctor and by Trenchard in his locked-in state. Montgomery uses his medical knowledge and his own experience of being a junior doctor to ensure that there is a strong thread of authenticity running through the core of this medical thriller.
That’s just as well, because like most books of this genre, the reader will require some suspension of disbelief to get the most from this book. That sits perfectly well with me, because I want my cast of suspects to come from those who interact with Kash and Trenchard on a daily basis in order to squeeze the most tension out of the scenario.
And Control is indeed tense, dark and very chilling. Those who use medical knowledge to kill deserve a special kind of hell for running counter to the credo of all medical professionals; first do no harm. Montgomery has taken the intricate medical procedures and daily dramas that occur in all hospitals and amplified them in intensity until we do not know who to trust and the number of motives is stockpiling beside Trenchard’s bedside.
Then just when you think you have worked everything out, Montgomery throws a curveball that completely disturbs your balance….
Verdict: Authentic, suspenseful, dark and terrifying, Control is a medical thriller that keeps you praying you’ll never have to go to hospital again.
Hugh Montgomery is a world leading professor of Intensive Care Medicine and Director of the UCLInstitute for Human Health and Performance at University College London. A distinguished physician,Hugh is responsible for the first discovery of a gene related to physical fitness. He has been awarded the title of London Leader by the London Sustainable Development Commission for his work in climate change and health, and was a founding member of the UK Climate and Health Council.
Outside of medicine Hugh is also an endurance expert and has run three 100km ultra marathons. He holds the world record for underwater piano playing, has scaled the world’s sixth highest mountain and has jumped naked from a plane at 14,000ft. He has published a children’s book The Voyage of the Arctic Ten and in 2007 presented the televised annual Royal Institution Christmas Lecture.