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'The Abduction' by Jonathan Holt: Beautifully written British thriller

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The Abduction by Jonathan Hold


"The Abduction" is an unusual mystery/suspense/action novel by British author Jonathan Holt. Holt studied English Literature at Oxford and is now the creative director of an advertising agency. But he clearly demonstrates in this novel an impressive additional area of expertise: post-World War II European and American history, especially as it relates to the world of spying, the CIA, the American military, the Italian military, the Cold War, and even the Vatican.

Of all those areas, it is the CIA which is the primary target of Holt's anger. And the reader is likely to feel the same way after reading "The Abduction." This is, indeed, a raging diatribe against the American spy machine; and it is powerful.

There are two intertwining plots, and the protagonists in both plots are one male and one female member of the Italian military police, called the carabinieri, plus a female member of the American military. The three are investigating two separate but related crimes.

The first is the strange discovery of a skeleton that was buried in or near Venice, Italy, toward the end of World War II. It turns out to be the remains of an Italian partisan who was executed military-style, shot in the back of the head, for reasons unknown. He was, however, a communist partisan as opposed to other Italian resistance fighters who were loyal to the monarchy or the Vatican.

The second plot involves the kidnapping of the sixteen-year-old daughter of an American Army major. She is tortured by her mysterious masked captors. They use methods -- to the letter -- of the CIA. But the CIA has officially determined that none of these "enforced interrogation" techniques are torture. The reader, you can rest assured, will not agree with the CIA.

What is most unusual about this novel is the use by Holt of the names of real (and prominent) figures and organizations, as he describes the horrifying practices of the CIA and the complicity of two American presidents, an Italian prime-minister, a priest who would become a Pope, and several other shocking participants with knowledge of and participation in even more shocking acts of violence.

This is powerful stuff -- and it's not all fiction. And that is unfortunate. For all of us.

Why 5 stars? The combination of fictional non-stop action and nonfictional information about torture and officially sanctioned scandalous behavior makes this a truly different kind of thriller.

Please note: This review is based on the final hardcover book provided by the publisher, Harper, for review purposes.

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