"The Cyber Puppets" is the latest in an excellent run of books by Angus McAllister, the last being "Close Quarters", a hugely enjoyable read. "The Cyber Puppets" takes as its central theme the lives of the Laird family, whose members are colourful characters, who could all have come straight out of a soap opera. Hector is the head of the dynasty and hugely proud of his Scottish ancestry; so much so, that his American home is closely modelled on a traditional Scots Baronial castle and the extensive grounds meticulously maintained to mimic the Scottish landscape. The whole family live there, including matriarch Kirsteen, their two sons Wilson and Roddy and daughter Fiona; all together with their wives, husbands and children. They are one great big, dysfunctional family. Wilson is the eldest child and a devious schemer. Brother Roddy is an alcoholic. Daughter Fiona, married to Scott, is a nymphomaniac. Marion and Melanie are the two daughters-in-law. And all of them are involved to greater and lesser extents in the family business: Scotch whisky.
The family's lives play out in much the same way as the plot of the TV series "Dallas" in the 1970s and 80s. There are deaths, attempted murders, intrigue, suspense and a cast of colourful characters with equally colourful lives and complicated relationships. But over time, long-suffering son-in-law Scott becomes concerned by ever greater irregularities creeping into his life. First his father-in-law Hector returns from a trip to his homeland, seemingly the same man, but with a different face. Then he begins to experience increasingly worrying memory lapses and an inability to act based upon his own free will. These are all the more alarming to Scott because no one else seems to notice them or feel the same way. Inevitably his life comes crashing down around him, though the reality is not at all what he might have imagined.
"The Cyber Puppets" is delivered in three parts and the transition between each one has been masterfully crafted. The descriptive writing is superb and it is easy to imagine the characters moving around the interior of the castle and within the landscape. Much of the action takes place in either the library of the house, or in the top floor offices of the Laird Building in Primeburgh, the setting for this novel. We meet other characters along the way. One is Hector and Kirsteen's long lost son, Angus. Another is Hector's main home-grown competitor in the whisky business, Anton Bruckner. Another, Bob Schumann, works undercover for Wilson Laird. Bruckner and Schumann are romantically involved with two of the Laird wives. There is also the mysterious Japanese businessman Mr Ramanuki.
"The Cyber Puppets" is an outstanding book, but one that it is hard to review without giving away the whole storyline. Suffice to say, all is not what it seems in Primeburgh, the wider world or with the Laird family, but in order to find out why, you will have to read it yourself. You will not be disappointed!