Review: A Decent Ransom: A Story of a Kidnapping Gone Right by Ivana Hruba

Monday, January 25, 2010

A Decent Ransom (cover)

A Decent Ransom: A Story of a Kidnapping Gone Right

by Ivana Hruba

Kunati Inc., 2008
272 pages
ISBN: 1601641621 (
9781601641625 (Book Depository)
Or buy direct from the author.

$14.95 / £12.50

Phoebus is a good, simple-minded backwoods kid who idolizes his big brother Kenny. Kenny, not much brighter, is full of spunk, full of himself, and full of plans. His plans generally revolve around getting away from the small town he grew up in and "being someone". His father (but not Phoebus') was a small-time crook, and Kenny dreams of being more, of pulling off something "big".

The central plan of the story is the title caper, a ransom job, and, despite the title, it does not go decently for all. The novel weaves through a handful of narratives, different small-town pairings, that slowly coalesce into a rich tapestry of intrigues, betrayals, and failures. Each point of view is distinctly rendered, and the different perspectives on shared events add depth to both the characters and the novel as a whole, especially as things build to a head.

The voice drew me in, and if you have some qualms about their capabilities and the central caper, don't worry: all will be revealed.

My favorite viewpoint was that of Mai Lin (aka Janelle), who has dreamlike visions. She and (her friend? lover?) Lien are Chinese strippers who live above their club (their club? or the club where they work?), doing the odd trick on the side. They, of course, have a dark secret, and Kenny's story is wound in with that as well. A good number of colorful characters are realized throughout the novel, all with their own stories, most looking for a way to change their lives. Everyone dreams of leaving, one way or another: some make their own plans; some pounce on opportunities; and some just hope.

My least favorite point of view was that of the kidnappee, Kathryn, though she did grow on me with time. I felt her mental issues were treated a little too simplistically, given how much of the plot hinged on her choices and actions. On the other hand, enough context was given to make her mental space plausible enough--but that was the main aspect of this novel that stretched my credulity.

One complaint meta to the story to itself is that the dialog was not visually separated from the narrative. That's not a conceit I enjoy, and it took me close to half the book to really get comfortable with it and stop noticing that there weren't quote marks around the spoken pieces. I really didn't see the point of that choice, and expect it's just a case of different backgrounds; if it was important to the telling, I missed why.

All in all, A Decent Ransom is engrossing--I highly recommend letting it grow on you and sampling its varied fruits.

Disclaimer: The review copy was provided free of charge and will be retained by the reviewer.

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posted by kaolin

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