A diplomat's son and a young member of the British nobility are kidnapped in capers that don't go as planned in this rerelease of two mysteries by the late Mcdonald.
The books, originally published as Who Took Toby Rinaldi? (1978) and Safekeeping (1985), give evidence of being written under the influence of O. Henry's classic short story "The Ransom of Red Chief," in which a kidnap victim proves such a handful that the kidnappers negotiate with the parents to accept the return of their child. Neither of the kids in these books approaches that level of hellaciousness. In the first, renamed Snatched for this volume, the victim is the son of a British diplomat taken to prevent the passage of a controversial measure at the United Nations. In the second, a young British boy is evacuated to New York City during World War II and winds up in the clutches of an evil cop and his scheming wife. This book shows traces of wanting to be Oliver Twist, and while Oliver was a cipher, too, a cipher at the heart of a ribald comic caper is a vacuum. Neither of the stories really takes off, and neither of the boys comes to life. Each of them tends to get lost amid the competing plot shards. In Snatched, some of those shards involve moments when the boy is in real fear for his life, and the unpleasantness leeches out the disreputable fun the book is aiming for.
Both of these complicated plots feel like rough drafts of the more polished entertainment they might have been.