A Jolly Good Fellow by Stephen V Masse is a different kind of suspense story. Duncan Wagner is a bumbling criminal. He's been contemplating kidnapping the son of his imagined enemy Win Booker. He gets a surprise when Gabriel Booker jumps into his car while hitchhiking. Duncan finds himself with everything he's been wanting and dreading at the same time.
Back at his apartment, Duncan keeps Gabriel a prisoner while he poses as a fake charity Santa Claus. Times are tough for Duncan but he makes a stylish Santa Claus and catches the eye of a pretty artist. Duncan returns home each night, half expecting Gabriel to be gone and the police on the hunt for him, but Gabriel keeps on surprising him.
Duncan isn't that bad of a guy. He is a very sympathetic character for a kidnapper. He honestly doesn't want to hurt the kid and he makes no effort not to get emotionally attached to him. He buys him things and makes him comfortable. He talks to Gabriel the way his parents should be talking to him. He really listens. Duncan's problem is a deeper emotional hurt that has been growing inside him for a long time. For some reason he believes a few thousand dollars will make the pain go away. He also has the naive belief that everything will turn out okay even though the reader can see the holes in his plan a mile away.
Gabriel is a strange character himself. He sees the kidnapping as a great adventure, something he can't wait to tell his friends about. He shows very little fear of Duncan even though he is a prisoner. As his time with Duncan goes on, it becomes apparent that things aren't so hot at home.
Duncan's story is told in an easy conversational style, like he's talking to you across the kitchen table. It makes it a nice quick read. The titles of the chapters are listed "Tape One," "Tape Two" which were a mystery to me until the end. It's an interesting device. A Jolly Good Fellow has a Christmasy feel complete with snow, so it's perfect for the upcoming holiday season. It has some heartwarming moments as well.
My thanks to Pump Up Your Book Tour and Stephen V Masse for the book and the oppurtunity to read A Jolly Good Fellow.