Control is a surprising medical drama centred around newly qualified Junior Doctor Kash Devan and renowned surgeon Michael Trenchard who are both in residence at the Victory hospital in London. Trenchard is a bit of a rock star at the hospital and appears to be loved and hated in equal measure. He quickly takes Kash under his wing and enjoys the starry-eyed respect he gets from the younger doctor.
One evening, Kash attends an emergency call to Trenchard’s office and finds him in cardiac arrest, apparently the victim of an auto-erotic asphyxiation session gone badly wrong. As a result, Trenchard is in a coma with seemingly little hope of recovery. As the weeks go by, Kash becomes convinced that Trenchard’s accident may have been something more sinister, but how can he find out if Trenchard is deep in a coma and has no idea what is going on around him? Odd things are happening on the wards which lead Kash to become suspicious, and he decides to look into the surgeon’s condition a little more closely. The way Kash teases out information and uses it to build a picture is very cleverly done and some of the parts written from Trenchard’s perspective were absolutely claustrophobic and skin-crawlingly real.
This is a really unusual book – I really liked some parts, and really disliked others especially a couple of situations that felt forced to further the plot. The premise was really good but the execution was a bit over the top – it didn’t seem to know if it wanted to be a serious, horrifying drama – which it could have been, or a soap opera where everyone is related in some way and characters are at times unrealistic and over-sexualised for shock value. I also I felt that the message was a bit sanctimonious. So a successful life-saving surgeon might make a mistake, he might even make some selfish decisions – but is that really a good enough justification for murder? The ending was weird as well, and it definitely did shock me, but I’m not sure it was the right way to finish things. It seemed like a massive about turn from the characters involved. Obviously that’s a matter of personal choice though and I’m sure others will enjoy the way it ends.