Seth's Reviews > Control Freak

Control Freak by Christa Faust
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's review
Apr 18, 2007

liked it
bookshelves: other-fiction
Recommended for: mystery fans who like or can handle bdsm content

This is Faust's first book, but wasn't published until 10 years later, after other of her books. It definitely has the feel of a Christa Faust story, but it reads like a first book. The writing is often a little gimmicky and there are several plotlines that just vanish rather than resolve. But it's a good read and the main character's growth is quite well handled.

Control Freak is set in early 90's NYC. Our protagonist is Caitlin. She is a writer and when her cop boyfriend is assigned to a particularly gruesome murder she decides she might want to write a true-crime book on the case. With the unsuspecting aid of her boyfriend's information and the help of a hacker friend she stays ahead of the police in her investigation and traces the victim to a the BDSM scene in lower Manhatten. She goes to the clubs and discovers she has natural skill for, and unsuspected interest in, being dominant.

Since the early nineties, the US BDSM scene has mainstreamed quite a bit. Clubs and parties invite fetishwear and light bondage in even small cities across the US. It is important to remember that this was not the case in the book's timeframe. The clubs in the book are also more tolerant of certain unsafe behaviors that would raise eyebrows in much of even the fetish scene today. Fewer people then had been exposed to fetish play beyond the Betty Page movies and what Caitlin discovers is new and scary to her; presumably it was supposed to be new and scary to the reader as well.

Caitlin's love of the scene and talent for it draws her further in to the more underground--and dangerous--clubs where the victim was well-known, and she makes friends in the community who are all suspects in the case. Her involvement begins to scare her hacker friend and becomes trouble for her boyfriend, eventually leader to her complete separation from her old life.

The mystery story is good and doubles into itself as we discover multiple interrelated mysteries. Caitlin's descent into an artificial world is well-handled and will be familiar to many people who have lost months or years of their lives in any inbred subculture of druggies, sex addicts, activists, or other groups. It is also kept separate enough from her introspection about power play and sex that she and the reader are able to keep from tainting one with the other.

The resolution of the mysteries is interesting, although not completely unexpected, and leads to some oddly (but not badly) paced action scenes and nice layers of betrayal.

All in all, it's a good read.

Be warned: this is the first book to squick me in years. The event that affected me came very late in the book and didn't diminish my enjoyment of the scene, the chapter, or the story, but there are some harsh descriptions. I didn't find any of the BDSM scenes or the sex to be extreme or explicit; it's the detective story that has the potentially-disturbing parts.

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