Donna Stramella, author of Coffee Killed My Mother, reviewed my novella, Ransoms Are For Amateurs
There’s nothing ordinary about James White’s novella, Ransoms Are For Amateurs. Actually, the unexpected reveals to both the reader and the characters alike. Clearly, the title suggested a kidnapping, but everything else about the book was unexpected. The kidnapper, police detective, and process–all unexpected. Even the kidnapping victim, little Henry was not the expected target. But the terrified and weak three-year-old was one of the reasons I couldn’t put the book down. What would happen to Henry?
Set in San Francisco in the 1980s, the criminal mastermind behind the kidnapping is Cisco, an evil man who cares not if Henry lives or dies. Like other characters carefully crafted in the story, White develops a unique, multi-sensory character in Cisco. We can feel his large, cruel presence; see his oily skin; hear his afflicted speech. He communicates by handwritten notes and in his own dialect, seemingly a result of his unrepaired cleft pallet. In another unexpected attribute of the character, he is also able to speak clearly, a type of “bilingual” skill that he uses as part of his disguise.
A female police detective is assigned to the case, and with a recent promotion, her lack of experience leading such a high-profile, high-stakes case is overcome by her motivation–even at extreme risk to herself. Identifying the kidnapper becomes a puzzle, even with an eye witness. Were there two men? Was there a single man? Was he young or old?
The pages turn faster and faster, with the reader belted in tightly on an action-packed ride with unexpected turns over and over again. Once you start, you’re in for the full journey. Expect to finish this one in a single 100 MPH sitting!