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[personal profile] gervase_fen
A recurring plot device that I’ve noticed in two recent blockbuster entertainment events -  namely Mission Impossible - Rogue Nation and the CSI series finale “Immortality” –  is what could be called the suicide bomber as ventriloquist’s dummy.  The unfortunate victim is locked into a vest laden with high explosive, usually C4, with a digital countdown clock offsetting the grey and black with twinkly red digits. The outfit comes complete with an earpiece, so that the master ventriloquist can give voice to outrageous demands via their volatile puppet.

I’m guessing here, but I suspect that these are flattering imitations of Sherlock’s “The Great Game”, and I daresay there are earlier antecedents (but not enough to merit a separate entry at TV Tropes.) Patrick Hoffman’s excellent debut “The White Van” has a low-tech variation on this idea as a crackerjack scheme to pull off the perfect bank heist. We’re in one of the seamier neighbourhoods of San Francisco, and twentysomething, wrong-side-of-the-tracks  Emily Rosario has been targeted by a three strong gang of Russians as their living bombing doll because she looks like “the right girl”. But how to insure her compliance? Kidnap her, hold her for three days, and drug her.  But what if the drugs wear off in the middle of the heist?

Patrick Hoffman’s first novel is very well done indeed – the story of What Emily Did Next is a compelling one, and the underworld of small time black market deals, drugs and debt in San Francisco feels lived in (more so here than in Malcolm Mackay’s Dagger entry I think.) The supporting cast includes Tramell, an alcoholic cop who is just as dangerous, needy and incompetent as the Russian gang he doesn’t know he’s chasing.  As for Emily?  By the end, when “The phrase I’m the boss popped into Emily’s mind” I was cheering her on, but still uncertain as to whether there would be a happy ending or not.

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