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McKenzie, Grant - 'Switch'
Paperback: 432 pages (July 2009) Publisher: Bantam ISBN: 0553819917

SWITCH is the first novel from a freelance journalist and art lover, originally from Scotland, but now living in Canada. The book, set in Portland, USA, is a novel about exacting revenge. In a dramatic first chapter, Rick Ironwood is shot and killed by Zack Parker, under the orders of an unknown man, who has threatened to kill Zack’s wife and child, unless he carries out the murder as ordered. Despite this, as Zack reaches the house where his family is, it explodes in front of him. However, this is the house of Sam White, a part-time actor, making money as a security guard at a nearby shopping mall, who reaches home from his night shift, to find his house blown up and his family apparently dead. Until he is given a package containing a cell phone, and the distorted voice on the other end tells him that his family is safe, but he won’t get them back until he delivers 1 million dollars. With nowhere to go, Sam checks into a hotel, noticing that a man in a Mercedes is following him. He slips out of the back window to his room, and into the Mercedes before the driver realises what’s happening, believing the driver to be involved in the kidnapping.

However, the driver is Zack, who manages to explain to Sam that he knows exactly what he’s going through, as his family were kidnapped too. He warns Sam that the kidnapper will ask him to do a range of illegal tasks under the threat of harm to his family, and that he needs to be prepared. Gradually, they start to trust each other, and try to work out who is targeting them, and why. They discover that they were both in the same year at high school, although Zack was a science nerd, eventually becoming a plastic surgeon and Sam a budding actor, and they were not in the same groups. Is the kidnapper someone from high school who tried, and failed, to join their group and harbours a long held grudge? Or does he have some other reason for targeting them? Can they find him, and rescue what’s left of their families?

Meanwhile, the police are also looking into the case, and start to come to similar conclusions. The ending is a dramatic one, as Sam waits at a station with the money in exchange for his daughter, leading to a chase through tunnels to find the perpetrators.

This is a strong first novel, with a tense story line. The desperation of the men as they try to follow the orders of the kidnappers to keep their families safe, while trying to find out the identify of the kidnapper, and effect a rescue is well told, and although at times fairly predictable, there are a few surprises peppered into the storyline. An entertaining first novel.

Michelle Peckham, England
January 2011

Details of the author's other books with links to reviews can be found on the Books page.
More European crime fiction reviews can be found on the Reviews page.

last updated 19/03/2011 14:34