If you’re looking for a jumper cable to get your heart and mind started, you need reach no further than KIDNAP & RANSOM by Michelle Gagnon. Loaded with enough action, mayhem and plotting to fill three books of equal duration, it’s a guaranteed up-all-night read.
The fourth of Gagnon’s Kelly Jones novels, KIDNAP & RANSOM picks up some seven months after the close of THE GATEKEEPER, with Jones still physically and mentally recovering from the devastating effects of the injury she sustained. The below-the-knee amputation of her right leg is obviously a major issue for her, keeping her from returning to active duty with the FBI and creating a looming if unspoken stumbling block in her relationship with Jake Riley, Jones’s fiancé. Riley is the co-founder of the Longhorn Group, a consultant business focusing exclusively on kidnap and ransom cases. When his estranged brother Mark goes missing in Mexico City, Riley immediately puts together a Longhorn team to locate him and effectuate his rescue. Jones demands to be put on the team as a way of proving her battle-readiness, not only to herself but also to Riley, who seems to be growing more distant from her.
The team quickly relocates to Mexico City, but the mission is a complicated one in both its inception and execution for a number of reasons. Mark, an employee of the Tyr Group, one of Longhorn’s major competitors, is in Mexico City to find Cesar Calderon, Tyr’s CEO who has been kidnapped. In the process of attempting to free Calderon, Mark himself is taken prisoner. When a second Tyr team is sent to Mexico City to track down and free Calderon, they all too soon find themselves butting up against Riley and the Longhorn team, with neither side entirely willing to give in.
Jones finds herself hampered not only by the residuals of her injury but also by Syd Clement, the other co-founder of Longhorn who regards her presence as little more than a hindrance for a number of reasons. She ultimately agrees to return to the United States, but her acquiescence is a ruse. She discovers that her most lethal adversary, believed to be dead, may well be in Mexico City. On the pretense of returning to the United States, Jones separates from the Longhorn team and begins following the trail of the man responsible for her crippling injury, hoping to achieve a degree of revenge as well as justice. The storyline thus plays out across twin tracks within the jungle of the Mexican countryside and the slums and ancient ruins of Mexico City, slowly converging to a cataclysmic climax that leaves everything changed.
Gagnon has been building to the conclusion of KIDNAP & RANSOM for some time now, yet she does such an excellent job of providing back-story information to those new to the series that it’s not necessary to read the preceding three novels to appreciate what happens. But you most certainly will want to do so. I guarantee that readers who have faithfully followed Gagnon over the course of the series will be stunned not only by what occurs in the final pages but also by the promise of what is to come. And I can’t escape the feeling that Gagnon is just getting warmed up.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 5, 2011