Kidnapping, you see, is my business.
Andrew Douglas works for Liberty Market, an agency specialising in kidnappings: advising on their prevention, negotiating ransoms, providing advice and support to the families and victims. The Danger follows him through three kidnap cases in three countries: young Italian jockey Alessia Cenci, 3-year-old English boy Dominic Nerrity, and Jockey Club official Morgan Freemantle. Douglas soon deduces that all three cases have links to the world of racing, and that a single individual – ‘HIM’ – is responsible for all of three.
Douglas’ work depends on a good relationship with local police forces. The police can be overly focused on capturing the kidnappers rather than rescuing the victim, whereas Douglas always puts the victim first. And not just their physical safety – he thinks about the emotional and financial implications too.
To save the victims’ future equilibrium had gradually become to me as important as their actual physical freedom.
Kidnappers always start with a massively unreasonable demand. They don’t expect to get it; they’re just trying to make anything less seem a relief. Pay too much too soon and the kidnappers think they have underestimated your resources and try to extort a second fee before releasing the victim. And don’t let the kidnappers ruin you financially – the released victim will feel guilty, which will generate resentment that can tear the family apart. The Danger is full of top tips like this, and seems closely based on interviews with real individuals in organisations similar to Liberty Market (‘No one who has helped me with the background of this book wants to be mentioned,’ says Francis in the Acknowledgements).
Comparing my thoughts on Francis’ Twice Shy to my notes for The Danger, I see one big difference. I didn’t find Douglas as off-puttingly arrogant and misogynistic as the heroes of Twice Shy. The odious father of Dominic Nerrity – not altogether convinced he’d trade financial ruin for his son, dismissive of his wife’s abilities and emotions, and unable to work with people who don’t agree with him – seems far more like those guys.
Douglas is an expert in keeping his feelings under control, letting logic rather than emotion drive his reactions. But he isn’t unlikeable with it. The slow uncovering of his feelings for his love-interest reads as a genuine journey from emotional prop to equal partner in a relationship.
Overall, this is a rock-solid, if unchallenging, thriller. The comparative rarity of books about kidnapping, and the fact that it is obviously closely informed by real-life cases, lend it interest. Well worth a read.
See also: The Village Smith: ‘In “The Danger”, Dick Francis delves more deeply into human nature, motives, and the quixotic personalities of people under pressure, than any other book I’ve read by him’
I am entering The Danger in the 2014 Vintage Mystery Reading Challenge (book featuring a crime other than murder).
Final destination: Greenmetropolis
Past Offences by Rich Westwood is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.