Reviewed by Caleb Shadis

I gave this book four stars, but it barely squeaked it out. The ending more than made up for what I didn’t like earlier in the book. I don’t know if reading one of the four earlier books in the series would have made a difference, but I found that in not knowing the background of the main character I was less disposed perhaps than other readers would be to like him.

Carl, a detective in the police department, is an unapologetic asshole. He is obnoxious, self-absorbed, opinionated, belittling, and condescending to others; he is supposed to be this great detective that solves cold cases. All I saw was a jerk who happened to have spotted and retained two very good assistants.

The Marco Effect is primarily about Marco Jameson, a teenager living a life of hell under his Uncle Zola, the head of the ‘family’ and de facto crime lord and dictator. The children steal and beg for Zola’s gain. Everyone is used in some capacity, and all obey Zola or pay a heavy price, usually in beatings. All of the family is illegally in Denmark, so Zola holds his position of legality over them. Controlling the children is easier if they are ignorant, so none of the children are taught—at least, not taught what they would learn in schools.

Marco is different: he is bright and inquisitive, he has taught himself how to read, and he spends all his spare time reading and learning. As he becomes more educated he also becomes unhappier with his predicament. Consequently, he is one of the few willing to try and stand up to Zola, which not even his father is willing to do. Marco overhears a plan for his future that scares him enough to run away. Marco thought he would be safe once out of the clutches of his uncle…but he discovers proof of a terrible crime that forever changes his future.

The piece Marco discovers is a small but important one dealing with a large international con scheme bilking the Danish government out of two-hundred-fifty million Kroner disguised as foreign aid to the Congo. Those stealing that amount of money can pay others to bury evidence and witnesses. All of a sudden, Marco is a very important asset to find and neutralize, not just capture and punish.

Marco’s story was excellent and kept me reading to the end. If I did not have such a terrible dislike for Carl from the beginning, The Marco Effect would likely have made it to four-and-a-half stars. There were a lot of story-lines going on in this book, and a couple very good twists kept things exciting. The writing was done well, so that sometimes you wanted some of the bad guys to survive, even when you knew they should be caught and punished.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Caleb is a software engineer and amateur woodworker living in southern Minnesota. He has more hobbies than he has time or money for, and enjoys his quiet time reading.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Dutton Adult. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.