Saturday, December 18, 2010

"Kidnap & Ransom"

Michelle Gagnon is a former modern dancer, dog walker, bartender, freelance journalist, personal trainer, model, and Russian supper club performer.

Her novels The Tunnels, Boneyard, and The Gatekeeper.

She applied the Page 69 Test to Kidnap & Ransom, her latest novel, and reported the following:
Kelly started to say something, then abruptly shut her mouth. Jake considered interceding, but unfortunately Syd was right. With every K&R job they had done in Mexico, their main goal was to avoid the authorities as much as possible, paying the right ones to look the other way. Tyr probably functioned on the same model. The neighborhoods they were talking about were basically war zones. If a Mexican cop wanted to last more than a week on the job, he avoided them at all costs. The Zetas were an occupying army in those territories. And considering that, some C4 might actually come in handy.

He could see Kelly trying to reconcile that in her head, and felt for her. This was way past anything she had ever been involved with. With any luck she was already considering booking a flight home.

She surprised him by saying, “So we’re avoiding the Tyr team, too.”

“Naturally,” Syd said.

“Where do we start?” Maltz asked.

Syd pointed to a spot in the upper right section of the map. “Tyr is here now, and moving north. I say we start above them and move south. There’s a rumor that some Americans are being held in a building in the northeast quadrant. Zetas are known for moving captives around, but we might get lucky. We’ll ask around, see what stones we can overturn.”

“Where did you hear the rumor?” Kelly asked dubiously.

“Sorry, hon. That’s classified,” Syd said smugly.

“Syd has a lot of friends who owe her favors,” Jake explained. He didn’t add that he referred to them as her ‘shadow network.’ He’d long ago learned better than to doubt her information. In his experience, those rumors were always right on the money.

“Why do you think anyone will talk to us, if the Zetas control everything?” Kelly pressed.

Syd dug into one of the duffels and withdrew a handful of cash. “Because we’ll be paying them. And if cash doesn’t work, we’ll try something else.”

Kelly abruptly stood and went to the bathroom. Jake followed her. She stood in front of the mirror staring down at the floor. He could hear the rest of the team suiting up in the bedroom.

I was pleasantly surprised to discover that this particular passage fell on page 69, because I think it does an excellent job of portraying the moral quandaries faced by my main characters, while also illustrating the personality conflicts at the heart of the story. It also gives an overall sense of the plot, which involves kidnappings by Mexican drug cartels. In this scene, my Kidnap & Ransom hostage rescue team has just arrived in Mexico City. Their mission is to find the missing members of a competing company's unit (Tyr) who were ambushed at the outset of the book. This passage illustrates the area of Mexico they're grappling with, a modern day Wild West rife with corruption and violence.

You also get a sense of the characters and their differing roles. Syd Clement is in her comfort zone. She doesn't like Kelly much, and doesn't hesitate to show that dislike, particularly in a situation like this one where she has the upper hand. Kelly Jones is adrift at the beginning of the story, trying to come to terms with a massive life change, doubting her relationship with Jake, and trying to figure out her place in the world. Jake Riley, meanwhile, is torn between both camps. If Kelly and Syd mark opposing ends of a moral compass, he's the pin spinning between them.

During the remaining 342 pages, all three characters are forced to confront the best and worst parts of themselves, and to try to come to terms with each other. And along the way, they face off against some seriously heavily armed bad guys. My hope was that Kidnap & Ransom would be a thrill ride from start to finish. Hopefully page 69 lives up to that standard.
Read an excerpt from Kidnap & Ransom, and learn more about the book and author at Michelle Gagnon's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Tunnels.

The Page 69 Test: Boneyard.

Visit the complete list of books in the Page 69 Test Series.

--Marshal Zeringue