Man.Made, Ian Austin

Reviewed By
Karen Chisholm

This is a tricky one to review. On the one hand I really like this character, and the series has covered some interesting aspects of policing. On the other hand they come with enormous info dumps, none more obvious than the aspects of how and what happens on surveillance jobs in MAN. MADE. Which whilst perhaps useful to know, read less thriller / novel and more manual / information briefing for potential operatives.

The series central character is Dan Calder, who worked in the UK police as a specialist undercover and covert surveillance cop (the timeline of the series, from memory, hasn't been linear, so each novel can work in standalone mode). One stinking hot weekend, in the summer of 2000, he's called into work on a public holiday. Which he kind of thinks could be a good thing, because his very pissed off girlfriend is in the process of packing up and moving out, leaving him not in the least because his lack of emotional maturity has finally gotten to her. Which is demonstrated when he professes himself more interested in sitting in a stinking hot, smelly, van in the hottest weekend going, than staying home and confronting the self-made stuff up that is his personal life.

There's a LOT of information here about the Obs Van, how it's setup, works (and doesn't) and what's involved in spending days in there on his own, watching a suspect's front door. There's also a LOT of info about the music he listens to on his brand-new iPod (that'll give you an idea of the timeframe of this novel), there's a fair bit of detail about how the whole team - the watchers and those waiting to strike communicate. How they provide food and water, what temperature all that's at, how they all while away the hours, what it's like to sit in an enclosed oven, how the ingress and egress to the back of the van works, how the chemical toilet does (or does not) function and on it goes. There's also a bit about the bloke they are watching, and his activities, but it's mostly Dan, in a van, listening to music, sometimes considering the mess he's made of his life. 

Then there's a flurry of activity when a nosy neighbour sends the cops to check out the stationery van, and a lot more when the target makes his move, the teams swoop and things get messy and ... well weirdly colourful. 

A very patchy reading experience, it was sometimes interesting to read about surveillance work from the inside, although this reader would have found it a lot more interesting without the endless repetition and all the detail - which I realise as an operative (ex-operative) would be fascinating, but as a simple reader, quickly became too much.


Year of Publication
Book Number (in series)

Man. Made. is the fifth book in a crime thriller series which features Dan Calder.

Calder is an ex-cop who specialised in covert surveillance and undercover operations during his career in the UK Police. Dan's very unique set of skills have enabled him to investigate crimes and criminals in the UK and also in his new home country of New Zealand. On opposite sides of the world, the two countries could not be more different in many ways and yet when it comes to the good guys up against the bad, some things never change.

Man. Made. is set against the backdrop of the hottest weekend of Summer 2000 and it's a public holiday to boot. Dan Calder’s at home with his girlfriend and she is packing up to leave when a call-out from Headquarters comes as a blessed relief. A run-of-the-mill job like a hundred the team’s done before. Once he and his surveillance colleagues are all in position, all they can do is wait for the target to move.

Fortunately for Dan, this job calls for the Obs Van which is his happy place. It’s mechanical idiosyncrasies make them kindred spirits in many ways. Plus double time for just sitting and watching the target’s front door. ‘Money for jam.’ As his best friend Nick would say.

To take his mind off the end of his latest domestic disaster, what could be better than whiling away the solitary hours by listening to all of his favourite songs, freshly installed on his brand-new iPod.

But Dan’s life is about to be turned upside down and ripped apart to the soundtrack of his past and present-day life.

The result could destroy him completely… or it could just be the making of him.

Review Man.Made, Ian Austin
Karen Chisholm
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