Saturday, January 28, 2017

Book Review: SNATCH, by Gregory Mcdonald

Gregory Mcdonald
Hard Case Crime / Titan Books, 2017 (1980, 1985)

446 pages
Crime / Noir / Satire

Gregory Mcdonald, who passed away in 2008, is best known for his FLETCH series. Yes. Fletch. That loveable, quirky crime solving journalist depicted by Chevy Chase on the big screen. Back-when I'd read a handful of the Fletch books, and loved them. Now, some two decades later, I am rediscovering Mcdonald's work.

SNATCH is like picking up a 45 record down at the music store. (Feel free to Google the reference if necessary). Hard Case Crime has re-released two novels under one title. SNATCH. And, just like that 45 RPM record there is clearly a Side A, and a Side B.

In the first novel, SNATCHED, we are looking at a kidnapping. Difference is, the abduction has nothing to do with money. When eight year-old Toby Rinaldi goes missing, his parents find themselves in the midst of a nightmare.

Teodoro is a Middle East Ambassador to the King, living in New York City. His wife, Christina, an American, is overwhelmed by the politics, and diplomatic life that seem to have driven a wedge into her marriage, and threatens her family.

There is a powerful article on the table. Resolution 1176R. It deals with closing, or not closing, the Persian Gulf to the shipping of oil. Whether passed, or dropped, the possibility of war hangs in the balance. Teodoro's presentation, and vote, could make all of the difference.

A phone call confirms it. Toby will either live or die based on how Teodoro votes. The choice is up to the ambassador.

Working with the king's secret security personnel, Teodoro does not trust anyone. And he has every right to feel paranoid. Something has gone wrong. There is more behind the kidnapping. Toby's life is in danger, and the vote is only a few days away!
SNATCHED was an easy, straight forward read. Some good twists. The characters were simple, but well drawn. Some of the best parts of the book pertained to Toby and his Kidnapper, Spike. The last forty, to fifty pages was packed with action. Fantazyland-style action. And the pages just kept turning, and turning. 


Unfortunately, for me, SAFEKEEPING was clearly the B Side of the 45, the lesser known song, if you will. It is meant as satire. I needed to continually remind myself of that while reading. It is nothing at all like the Fletch novels, and nothing at all like SNATCHED.

I saw some reviews compare SAFEKEEPING to the likes of Mark Twain. I did not see that. The story takes place during World War II. Our main character, the hero, if you will, is Robert James Saint James Burnes Walter. (Robby Burnes for short). The eight year old boy is in an England bordering school when he learns that his parents have died in a bombing.

The school informs the child in a very flippant way of the deaths. They inform Robby that he will be sent to stay with his uncle in New York City. Journalist Thadeus Lowry shows up hours late to retrieve his nephew. He is clearly self-absorbed, arrogant, and does not seem to realize no one takes him serious at all.

There is no sympathy, or questions asked about the death of Robby's parents. Thadeus seems indifferent about the death of his sister, Robby's mother, and more concerned with finding his next story--always looking for the byline.

The two get tangled up in some misadventures that, I presume, are meant to be funny, and ironic, and full of satire. Me? I either just didn't get, or just didn't care enough to try. The story reads easy. Smooth writing. For me, SAFEKEEPING was like drinking from the container in the 'fridge and expecting sodapop, only to end up swallowing milk. Milk's still good, but not when you are expecting soda. Perhaps I thought I was in for a noir-style story, and was a bit taken aback by getting something more Steinbeck-ish instead.

Phillip Tomasso,
Author of the Severed Empire Series,
and The Vaccination Trilogy

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