Alice in Jeopardy

Not only is Alice Glendenning in jeopardy during the six days’ progress of Alice In Jeopardy but she also lives in constant anguish. Shaking off still another nightmare keyed to the recent death by drowning of Eddie, her husband, Alice is late dropping off her two kids whose kidnaping will be the novel’s vital center. A New York native who gave up film study for marriage, family, and, now, at thirty-four, widowhood in Florida as an unsuccessful real estate agent, she begins her workday at 9:30. By late afternoon, given the zoom lens a short novel requires, Alice will never be the same.

That morning’s first prospect refuses to commit himself to being her first sale. She is reminded that if the insurance company does not pay off her late husband’s one quarter of a million dollars policy soon, or if she does not sell a house soon, she, Ashley, 10, and the traumatized Jamie, 8, will be insolvent. Next, Alice is left with a broken ankle after a pedestrian mishap. She gets home to learn that her children have been spirited away from school by a blonde in a blue Chevy Impala. Unless she pays by the next day a ransom of $250,000--naturally, that’s the value of Eddie’s policy--the kids will die.

The quarter-million becomes the prime focus, not only of the kidnapers, but of many others including the inept Cape October police who induce Alice to pay the ransom in bogus money called “super-bills” and made in Iran on intaglio presses the United States sold to the old Shah. The reader is asked to believe that a mother as devoted as Alice would agree to risking two young lives by a payoff in marked bills.

It is easy to foresee the only possible ending. Yet Ed McBain’s novel goes down like key lime pie.