FORTRESS by Gabrielle Lord


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Death Wish, kiddie-style--as a young Australian teacher and her dozen pupils get tough and bloodthirsty in their duel-to-the-death against a quartet of kidnappers. Sally Jones is in her third and final year of ""country service"" as teacher in a tiny village's one-room schoolhouse six hours from Sydney. . . when she and her whole class are forced into a van by four ransom-minded thugs (in cartoon masks), driven 100 miles into the wilderness, and sealed in a cave. Sally remains cool, however--making a lamp out of string and salad dressing, keeping the kids calm, and finding a back way out of the cave. Unfortunately, the jubilant escapees head right for the nearest house--occupied by the villains, of course, who (after shooting an old man on the premises) lock Sally and kids in the barn. Will the brave bunch excape yet again? Definitely--by quasi-seducing their guard and bashing him over the head (though Sally's righthand boy Tommy gets gun-wounded in the process). So then it's on the run again--to a cave--but followed, it seems, by the two surviving nappers, one of whom is a taunting, sadistic psycho. And now Sally's attitude shifts from fear to anger (""We're going to get them""); she and the kids make their cave a fortress, complete with moat and spear-pit; one kidnapper is killed on the spears; and the other, the psycho, is stoned and mutilated when he finally invades the cave: ""Take that, bully man. See how it feels. See how it hurts. See how he screams."" Etc. Are the kids forever traumatized by this nightmare? Well, they do act a little hostile when a policeman comes around to ask questions about exactly what happened. Essentially, however, they seem to be reassured by Sally's explanation: ""The more savage we were, the more we loved."" An odd little book, then--the first half Disney-inspirational (effectively so), the second half pure Charles Bronson; but, despite the implausibilities and overdone moments along the way, it's mostly plain, tight (140 pp. in all), and sometimes quite gripping.

Pub Date: June 12th, 1981
Publisher: St. Martin's