Good as Gone by Douglas Corleone is the first book in the Simon Fisk international thriller series (available August 20, 2013).
Douglas Corleone has a new protagonist and this new guy will take you to Europe. He has enough language to handle basics in Paris, Berlin, Warsaw and Krakow, Odessa, and Portugal. If you know hello and good morning and thanks, you will enjoy the reminders. The whole feeling is of a knowing traveler—hip, aware of the wealthy and the poor, the sophisticated and the seedy. There is a club scene in Paris with multiple brands of Ecstasy. That segment was fun for me, experiencing a rave in the great city. When it comes to drugs, reading is how I experience them—safely.
Former U.S. Marshall Simon Fisk has a specialty. He recovers children kidnapped by one parent determined to get the child away from the other parent. Each country has laws about how extraditions are handled, which parent is in the right, etc. And Simon’s work, we learn early on, has got him into trouble; he’s a wanted man. When the French police descend on him as he’s trying to leave the country, things look grim, but they have an alternative for him, a deal. If he will find one child, Lindsay Sorkin, maybe they can look the other way.
Six year old Lindsay has disappeared from a locked hotel room in Paris. Her parents are understandably distraught. And there is a complication to be considered—her father is a highly sought after inventor of robot soldiers and he is worth untold sums of money. Is this why someone has taken Lindsay? Who wants her and why? And yet there are no ransom demands. The parents are isolated, private, a little odd.
Blood flows in this novel. Fisk is an accomplished fighter and there are enough bad guys to fill a large prison. Lots of nationalities are represented. Knives, Glocks, and even a scalpel are pulled as Fisk bounces from suspect to suspect, city to city. From here on I will have to resort to ellipses since there are spoilers involved.
Corleone relies upon a few familiar plot premises: It turns out that Fisk is still haunted by the disappearance of his own daughter and the subsequent suicide of his beloved wife. When he’s asked to speak to Lindsay’s mother on the phone, he resists at first:
“I’d rather not, Lieutenant. Not until I have the girl.”
“Please, Simon, hearing your voice will reassure her.”
I hesitated. “All right,” I said. “Go fetch her.”
While I waited, I turned to Osterman. “Am I leaving you holding the bag again?”
. . . . Before I could say another word, Lori Sorkin’s sleepy voice came on the line. “Simon?”
Hearing her voice, I felt like I was speaking to Tasha all over again.
But by the time her gets into a lawyer’s office in Warsaw, he is met by a woman who has “two of the brightest green eyes in existense.” She is Anastazja Staszak, an attorney herself. She smells wonderful and has “a thick appealing accent.” She’s a game girl when it comes to dangerous expeditions. She is hard for Simon or readers to resist. When she and Simon finally claw at each other’s clothing in a bedroom, we’re rooting for them. Simon tells us:
For the next half hour I would be perfectly at peace.
It wouldn’t last, of course; I knew that.
Neither sex nor peace ever did.
The locations are wonderful—not just countries, not just some of the great cities of the world, but houses, apartments, buildings. I happen to like the seedy ones best.
The closer I got to the abandoned hostel, the darker it seemed to get. The Eli Roth film I’d caught on Pay-per-view in a Stockholm hotel room a few years earlier crept into my mind. I was pretty sure Hostel had been set in Slovakia but right now that provided little comfort. Who knew what hell was waiting for me inside this bulding. . . .
At the back of the building I climbed a six foot fence, the metal pulling at the delicate threats of my jacket and pants as I leaped over the top. I hoped Davignon wasn’t expecting the suits back once I finally returned to Paris.
The rear entrance appeared to be locked up tight, a padlock and chains criss-crossing the doorway like a birthday present with an an unpleasant bow. I didn’t carry a set of bolt cutters on my person, so entering through this door without making a racket would make for one ehll of a trick. I was sure it wasn’t possible.
Which left me only the windows and an imagination operating on little sleep.
Simon makes his way through Europe on a BMW motorcycle, several taxis, a train, a plane. Train travel adds a special old Hitchockian thrill.
Again I stared out the window into the night and tried to picture the person or persons capable of pulling off this elaborate kidnapping of Lindsay Sorkin. For a moment I locked on a reflection coming from the window into our compartment. That face again. I swung my head around but the visage was gone.
Must have been the provodnik.
Each carriage had one: an attendant who collected tickets, distributed sheets and pillows, made morning wake-up calls, served cups of tea. Or maybe it was someone in a second- or third-class sleeper, or er even a fourth class traveler with nothing but a hard bench seat, looking for an empty compartment with a bed so that he could stretch out and catch some z’s before arriving in Kiev.
I thought of lowering the curtain, but I wanted to be able to see out. I hadn’t been having the safest week of my life, after all.
The motion of the train threatened to lull me to sleep, but I knew it wouldn’t keep, that I’d just wake up feeling miserable after eight or ten minutes, so I kept myself awake with a Ukrainian travel guide some previous passenger had left behind.
And so we travel and Simon fights and gets seriously wounded more than once.
All the while a puzzle must be solved. Where is the little girl? Who took her and why? How are the many characters—German, Turkish, Polish, Belarussion—connected? It’s alarming that when one of those guys dies in the inevitable violence, so does information, so do clues.
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Kathleen George is the editor of Pittsburgh Noir and the author of Taken, Fallen, Afterimage, The Odds, Hideout, Simple, and the forthcoming A Measure of Blood.