Snatched is the first of two kidnapping novels by the late Gregory Mcdonald in the latest omnibus from Hard Case Crime, Snatch.
It’s a…What’s that?…No, that’s not what the book is about. Try to keep your mind out of the gutter….Yes, I have to admit you do have a point. I can see how putting a picture of a voluptuous redhead wearing only a sheet and the corner of a newspaper on the cover of a book entitled Snatch might be a bit misleading…May I continue?…Thank you.
As I was saying…what was I saying? Oh, yes. This isn’t a dark noir novel, but it’s not exactly a light humorous novel either. Here’s the setup.
Arturo Rinaldi is the ambassador for some small kingdom in the Middle East. He’s putting together a resolution to bring before the UN regarding oil in the Persian Gulf. Snatched was published in 1980, so the Oil Crisis of the 1970s is very much at the forefront of the story.
Rinaldi’s eight-year old son Toby is supposed to be flying to California from New York to meet his mother, already there for a tennis camp, for a bit of vacation. Only he never arrives. He’s kidnapped along the way. The King puts his best man on the case, a former mercenary who is the head of his country’s intelligence operations in the US, a colonel Turnbull. Only Turnbull has a secret he’s hiding that very much involves Rinaldi.
This is one of those stories where nothing works out for the kidnappers. Toby, while not cut from the same cloth as Red Chief in the famous O. Henry story, is more than capable of taking care of himself. Fortunately, his mother isn’t very good at following directions, either.
I read this one over the weekend, finishing it a little while ago. I needed the break from the fantasy and horror I’ve been reading and trying to write. Snatched was the perfect break. Mcdonald set the tension in the opening chapter using mostly dialogue, then twisted the plot in several different directions, peopling his story with a diverse and interesting cast of characters, making even the most minor folks seem fully fleshed. In fact, the dialogue is what carried the story to a large degree.
There was tension, but the story wasn’t too dark. There was humor in a number of places, often of the gentle satire variety. I especially liked how he turned the kidnapper, Spike, from a total creep to a sympathetic figure.
I was aware of Gregory Mcdonald in the 80s and 90s, when his Fletch series was on the bestseller lists, but I never read him before now. I was too busy reading the other two mystery writers with similar last names, John D. MacDonald and Ross MacDonald.
Like I said, Snatched is the first of two novels in Snatch. The second is Safekeeping, which concerns a kidnapping in WWII London. I’ll definitely be reading it.