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This is a short story involving kidnap, murder and a top secret military project. It is narrated in the first person by the main character, Tony Russo, a recording studio owner, sound engineer and producer, and one time band member of The Revolvers. He also happens to work as a consultant in audio forensics in his spare time, hence his participation in this case.
The author wastes little time on a lengthy introduction, and, after furnishing the barest background details about Tony and his musician friend Johnny Betts, cuts straight to the action. An untimely phone call from Dwight Gray, the forensic investigator for whom Tony works part-time, reveals that Cindy Griswold, daughter of one of the wealthiest men in the state, has been kidnapped with a ransom demand of five million dollars. Dwight has been hired directly by her father to conduct an investigation independently of the police and has been given a recording of the kidnapper's message which he needs Tony to analyse as soon as possible.
Into the picture comes Tony's cousin, Sam, a State Police Captain, who is not at all happy that Griswold has brought in his own investigators; and while Tony tries to smooth over the situation, both Dwight and Sam have the feeling that Griswold is not revealing all he knows about the case.
The race is on to find the kidnapper's whereabouts and second guess the next move, and frequent references to the time in the narration make the reader aware of the clock ticking away. The shadow of suspicion falls on one person after another as more facts come to light, and just as everything seems to be falling into place maybe a little too easily, Tony has a hunch about the phone calls which enables the team to start seeing their way through the smoke screen.
In many ways this fast paced plot is well suited to the short story format; the author is constrained to convey characters and events in a very limited space which reflects the time limits within which the characters are forced to work. There is the impression that events are unfolding at the same pace that they are being read. The twists and turns in the action make it pretty engrossing, and it is short enough to read in one sitting. I found the characters believable given the succinct sketches provided by the author through the dialogue and the narrator's comments.
However, although I was enjoying reading it, I kept thinking that the plot was complex enough and the characterisation strong enough to have merited a full length book. It would have been nice to explore the background of the main characters and their inter-relationships in greater depth and to have seen the development of some of the individuals who are only briefly mentioned but whose roles are not unimportant. I would also have been interested to learn more about the whole concept of audio forensics.
I have rated the book three out of four stars and I am happy to recommend it as an entertaining and absorbing short read. I understand there are more Tony Russo stories, so, hopefully, further enlightenment will follow.
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