The Kidnapper by Robert Bloch

(No Series)

Steve Collins is looking for the Big Score, the crime that will set him up for life. He thinks he's found it. He's going to kidnap Shirley Mae Warren, daughter of a wealthy banker and industrialist. The $200,000 ransom will get Collins his new start.

He can't do it alone. He'll need help. First, Shirley Mae's nanny, Mary - for her, Collins is the perfect lover. Then, a driver and front man - the man Collins calls his best friend.

The plan goes wrong. The child dies. And Collins sacrifices all - friend, lover - to save himself.

Again reviewing another old, slightly hard to find book (written in 1954 but not in ANY way feeling dated or old-fashioned, using modern lingo and thinking - amazing how this was pulled off), The Kidnapper is one of Blochs' great achievements. Weighing in at a mere 216 pages, the engrossing tale starts with a bang and ends with an even bigger one.

Written in the first person, you can't help but like the main character slightly, though obviously his deranged outlook and frequent using of people leaves a sour taste in the mouth. Rarely is a book written through the first person with this sort of character, but it's an eye awakener into the mind of a sociopath out for his own sake. Perhaps inspired by get rich schemes, this is the ultimate attempted scam gone wrong, an ideal warning against easy money never being earned the criminal way.

Strangely the main character, Steve, is revealed with a bizarre sense of humor that, while not making him an endearing sort, delivers a strange and almost desirable touch. I wouldn't say this book is comical, for the subject is so dark and serious, yet when it's married to a slight comedic "bad guy", the effect is unusually readable. The dialogue exchanged between the 'criminals' is well-written, accurately painting a picture of their devious and misled minds, while Mary as the nanny and Specs as the nerd-turned-'friend'/accomplice also seem genuine.

One thing that propels this book forward into the fast-read category is the high suspense ratio. Action does not begin on the first page and it takes a bit to get to the actual kidnapping, instead having various scenes between characters which would feel slightly boring if it weren't for the witty phrasing and unusual exchanges. Stakes always feel high when the actual crime gets done, everything desperate from day one, with each person taking a turn panicking. Disaster after disaster strikes to where - again - it's nearly funny, with Steve still seeming almost likable.

If you pass this one in a used bookstore, you're doing yourself a treat picking it up. In no way is it a horror story AT ALL, but a definite straight suspense. No gore and sex only used when it needs to show something about Steve and Mary, it's an intelligent and unusual look inside a tainted, unique mind. I especially loved the ending, which really set the book apart from many in its kilt.

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