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By unknown | Feb 10, 2009 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

I am a sucker for industrial jargon. When I picked up this book I thought it was about that bane of journalists - when someone in authority breathes down a reporter's neck demanding a story.

But alas, it was another kind of deadline, a mother racing against time to save her only daughter from a bunch of crazed kidnappers who, having realised they undercut themselves in their initial ransom demand, unashamedly went ahead and demanded more.

Andrea Devern comes home from work one Tuesday night and a nightmare unfolds before her very eyes. As she steps into the house the phone rings. The man on the other end of the line bears terrible news. They have her daughter Emma - if she wants to see her alive again she'll have to come up with half a million bucks.

But Kernick, who I am reading for the first time, is a master story-teller. He gives Andrea a sort of past that makes the book un-put-down-able.

Told by the kidnappers not to involve the police, she calls an old boyfriend, a reformed thug with a name straight out of the movies, Jimmy Galante.

To get Galante in on the chase, she tells him Emma is his daughter. The kidnappers quickly dispose of Galante, in a gory mess that makes Andrea realise they mean business. She goes to the cops and the man who leads the team, Mike Bolt, is another ex-flame.

How does she get him to throw his all into the search for Emma? She tells him Emma was conceived during an eight-week fling they had 15 years ago.

Well, bodies pile up. Emma is freed. Bolt finally gets to know he's not the father (hah!). The man behind the kidnapping turns out to be a cop, a bitter ex-colleague of Bolt's.

Jack Doyle, the copper, was in on an armed robbery with Galante and his crew of thugs. Andrea shopped them and Doyle had never forgotten.

This is fiction, I know - "generally accepted falsehood", as one dictionary meaning has it, but please bear with me, I have a weakness for good language. I suspect that even if someone were to decree my own death and the edict came in polished prose, I'd go down smiling.

Fiction for me, written as well as Kernick does, is a form of escapism no hallucinogenic drug can give.


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