CARGO by J.C.  Macek III


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A man locked in a cargo container has 24 hours to pay a huge ransom or he and his wife will die in this thriller.

Businessman Anthony Peterson awakens in a cargo container with no memory of how he got there. But why he’s there becomes quickly apparent. The only item in the otherwise bare container is a cellphone taped to the wall. The kidnapper calls and immediately makes it clear that he has Peterson’s wife, Susan. If the entrepreneur doesn’t come up with $10 million in 24 hours, the kidnapper (and others) will rape and murder Susan while leaving Peterson to die of suffocation. Peterson also has an extra incentive: His abductor has wired the container for electricity and intermittently punishes him with jolts. The phone has no GPS or internet capabilities, so he calls his closest business associate, Tom Pocase. Unfortunately, even after Pocase gathers all of Peterson’s company shares, the total is nowhere near $10 million. The protagonist looks for money wherever he can find it, including his grown but estranged children’s trust funds. As the narrative progresses, readers learn that Peterson is not without his faults, from a failed marriage to a deadly incident in South America for which some hold him accountable. With time running out, he can only hope that he and Pocase can track down the entire ransom amount and that then Peterson and Susan, as the kidnapper promised, will be free to go.

Maçek’s (The Pretty Good and Pretty Representative Stories of J.C. Maçek III, 2017, etc.) story is a novelization of James Dylan’s 2018 film of the same name, which the author helped produce. Owing to its source, this book is rife with cinematic elements. For example, the majority of the action is from Peterson’s perspective (via phone), which Maçek often works to great effect. In one instance, Pocase, in securing money for the ransom, goes to Peterson’s house and has an unfriendly encounter with the family’s attack dog, Satan. It’s an assault the tale presents through a series of sounds: Pocase running, Satan’s jingling collar, and “the terrible sound of teeth on meat.” This furthermore mutes some of the violence, as Peterson (and readers) can only imagine what’s happening. But there is at least one cringe-inducing sequence: Peterson has the opportunity to lower the ransom—an act that involves a pair of pliers. The story occasionally shifts perspective to a character outside the container, like Calderon, a mercenary working for the kidnapper. Though Calderon’s subplot is engaging (he may no longer have the stomach for this type of profession), it does lessen the suspense derived from the claustrophobic container. Despite the restricted setting, the swiftly paced tale encumbers the protagonist with numerous problems, such as Pocase’s toying with the idea of keeping the ransom money. As he nonchalantly puts it, “I mean, theoretically I could just…hang up this phone and go on my merry way.” The identity of who’s behind the abductions is hardly surprising, but the open ending delivers an image that will definitely linger.

A frequently intense kidnapping tale that takes full advantage of its confined setting.

Pub Date: Jan. 9th, 2018
ISBN: 978-1-912175-88-8
Page count: 246pp
Publisher: Bloodhound Books
Program: Kirkus Indie
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