An American businessman tries to save his ex-lover from European criminals in Welles’ debut thriller.
Mike McKenzie had spent some time in Prague after grad school and remembers the time fondly. But he’s surprised to get a phone call one night and find out that his Czech ex-boyfriend, Evžen Srnck, is now in trouble and needs his help; he’s on the run from some gangsters and has fled to Paris. Mike, who’s filled with nostalgia and some degree of desire for Evžen, boards a plane and heads to France. Once there, Mike learns that his ex had been lured into a scheme in which a Czech mafia don gave him money upfront to buy a bar, but then demanded repayment quickly in large installments. An almost broke Evžen escaped from Prague, but the Czechs have sent thugs to Paris to hunt him down. Mike must protect him, and later himself, as they race around Paris in an increasingly dangerous cat-and-mouse game. As Mike falls headfirst into the drama and peril of his ex’s predicament, he and “rent boy” Christophe become lovers. When the mobsters eventually kidnap Evžen, Mike and Christophe team up with Lt. René Jacques of the Paris police to stage a rescue. Welles’ caper is certainly fast-paced and rarely takes a breath as the novel goes on. Through all the calamities, Mike notes that “he’d already seen and done things he wouldn’t have believed himself capable of just twenty-four hours before.” Indeed, the author fills the book with seedy bars, ancient hotels, stashed guns, shady deals, and escapes out windows. The story’s circuitous nature makes it seem somewhat convoluted, long-winded, and a bit repetitive at times. Still, it’s often hair-raising, and it even has time for a few moments of romantic longing.
A verbose continental adventure, but one with menace, intrigue, and a few pleasant surprises.