A kidnapping brings together a spy, an acclaimed novelist, and a diplomat—in a less-than-thrilling thriller.
Vicky Sorrell isn’t long for her job as cultural affairs officer at the US embassy in Madrid. She’s just broken off a relationship with fellow diplomat Wyatt—a plaintive, moonlit spat between the two provides the playful opening—and she wants to get out of the business entirely. Before she can do that, though, renowned author J.J. Baines, who’s researching a new book about diplomats, asks her to throw a little soirée for him. Vicky does what she’s asked, finds Baines as arrogant as most people do, and thinks that’s that. Baines, however, has an ulterior motive. Not long before, he was kidnapped by a leftist Colombian splinter faction (so ideologically pure they won’t even accept drug money like the other rebels do) and told that he had to arrange a contact with certain important people in the Madrid embassy. To add suspense after Baines’s release, his nephew, a slacker back in Buffalo worried that somebody is going to find all that pot he’s got stashed in the house, is kidnapped for real by a couple of thugs. The story eventually swings back to Vicky in Spain and her dealings with Marc, an American spy who’s sniffing around the Baines case and trying to piece it all together—though the tension is very light and hardly enough to keep most readers’ interest. Jacobs (Stone Cowboy, 1997, etc.) was a foreign service officer himself and seems to be trying for a smarter type of potboiler, with a bit of politics, a couple of spicy affairs, and a little skullduggery while he attempts to engage you on a higher level. But given mostly undistinguishable characters and trivial developments in the plot department, he strands himself far from the reaches of Greene or le Carré.
Either too short or far too long: all setup and terribly little payoff.