Wednesday, January 20, 2016

"The Locker"

Adrian Magson is the author of 20 crime and spy thrillers, numerous short stories, a YA ghost novel and Write On!-a writers’ help book.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, The Locker, the first of a new series featuring private security operatives Ruth Gonzales and Andy Vaslik, and reported the following:
From page 69:
'Some of them get posted for long periods to the back of beyond. If they cancel the contract because they no longer need it we make a pro-rata refund.’

‘Is this complete?’ Ruth was looking at a list of five alpha-numerics, all in Greater London. They were the previous postcodes for the Hardmans’ addresses.

But Margie dashed her hopes. ‘It would be if we had anything more to enter. As you can see, they’ve moved about a bit since the initial contract. That’s all we’ve got.’ She turned to her monitor and entered the client contract reference. It brought up a record of the Finchley address, with a phone contact number followed by the postcodes on a series of change-of-address panels. The last full address listed was at the house now occupied by Nancy. ‘The contract began in Finchley, as you can see, but they moved and notified us each time of their new postcode, to keep the records active.’ She sniffed. ‘Waste of time if you ask me. No good taking out a Safeguard contract if we don’t know where to find the client.’

‘Well, we knew this time,’ Ruth said. ‘Perhaps they didn’t get on with their neighbours. You don’t keep the addresses, I suppose?’

‘Not beyond the first one, which we need for legal purposes. We try to delete old information as a matter of course, but we must have missed these postcodes. Not that they’ll be much use; they won’t show which house or flat they lived in.’

Ruth took out her cell phone and dialled the phone number listed. Out of service.

‘We run regular data checks to update the client profile and contact details,’ Margie added. ‘But if the client moves away and doesn’t tell us, there’s not much we can do. This one must have told us about the new addresses but not the contact number. I guess we didn’t need it until today.’
I have to say, on balance, this is not a particularly grabbing page. It's one of those leg-work scenes where information is being sought by Ruth Gonzales and Andy Vaslik, the investigators, about the kidnapping of a little girl. They’re at the Cruxys offices, looking at the records for Michael Hardman, the kidnapped girl's father, who took out a Safeguard contract with Cruxys Solutions, which guarantees support for the client’s family in the event of an emergency. He’s soon to become the big puzzle in the story, when they find themselves in a blind alley, because they can't locate him. And his wife, Nancy, isn’t much help. He's evidently important to the kidnappers since he's mentioned in their demand note, but why?

It's actually around this point in the story that Gonzales and Vaslik begin to suspect that all is not what it seems about this particular kidnapping. It’s clearly been well-planned, but for what reason? They have a seemingly ordinary and not well-off family unit living in London, albeit with an elusive father off doing aid work in some remote area of Africa or the Middle East. They have a wife who seems oddly unfazed by her husband’s long absences with little or no regular contact. But that’s all.

So what is it about the Hardmans, and specifically Michael, that has attracted the attention of a criminal gang? And why can’t the investigators find any trace of him?

My only further comment about the story echoes what the investigators begin to discover: that this is no ordinary child-kidnap and the people behind it are anything but shake-down artists. Indeed, they are highly professional and come from outside the UK.

And the title - The Locker - has more than the obvious meaning of a box in which to leave one’s clothes at the gym (which is where the story begins). But that comes later in the story.
Learn more about the book and author at Adrian Magson's website.

The Page 69 Test: Tracers.

The Page 69 Test: Deception.

--Marshal Zeringue