Crying Wolf

Peter Abrahams, Author Ballantine Books $25 (336p) ISBN 978-0-345-42385-6
Edgar nominee Abrahams (Lights Out; A Perfect Crime) returns with a suspense novel built around kidnapping, extortion and youthful stupidity. Nat is the eager, sports-loving valedictorian of his small-town Colorado high school. With his $2,000 prize in an essay contest, he can just barely afford to enroll at Inverness, an elite New England college. There he meets Grace and Izzie Zorn, twins from a wealthy Manhattan family, who bring Nat home with them for the Christmas holiday and show him tall buildings, fine wines and decadent parties. Meanwhile, a steroid-pumped, speed-freak criminal named Freedy flees his job cleaning swimming pools in L.A. after a botched rape and assault. Heading home to Inverness to live off his perpetually stoned mother, he discovers his next source of income: technological appliances from the college. Freedy begins ripping them off and fencing them to a local hood, using a network of tunnels beneath the school to get in and out. Nearly stumbling into Freedy one night, Nat and the girls discover a hidden room full of old books and booze, which becomes their hideaway. When Nat's mother is fired from her job, Nat fears he'll have to drop out of Inverness, so the girls (both have slept with him by now) plot to stage their own kidnapping, earmarking the ""ransom"" for Nat's tuition. Mr. Zorn quickly thwarts their plan, but Freedy, who has been spying on Nat and the girls' secret meetings, hatches his own, far more dangerous, kidnapping scam. Now, when the situation is serious, Nat's vain pleas for help give the novel its name. Abrahams's plot moves too slowly to please readers looking for danger, verve and action, and his characters are too crudely drawn to succeed as examples of dissolute late-adolescent elites. With his foul language and his 'roid and meth-driven delusions of grandeur, Freedy makes for an interesting villain, but his rages can't sustain the book. Nat remains too naive for too long, his girlfriends are two-dimensional and a distracting subplot (involving Nat's philosophy professor, Mr. Zorn and Freedy's mother) is left unresolved. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 01/31/2000
Release date: 02/01/2000
Genre: Fiction
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