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The Long Escape Paperback – October 24, 2011
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Top Customer Reviews
“The Long Escape” begins with a fairly simple assignment. A man from Pasadena, California, had disappeared five years earlier, leaving his wife, family, and various properties behind. The wife has moved on with her life, but would like to sell the properties for a substantial sum. Problem is she needs the errant husband to either sign off on his share of the property or else proof of his demise. The deal is not going to be dangled for very long and she needs to close the deal now. Colby, working on almost no information, finds proof that the disappearing man took his car south into Mexico and, from Mexico City, he begins tracing the man on a trial that leads him nearly to the tip of South America. In Chile, he meets interesting people who offer him little to satisfy him about the disappearance and much to make him curious.
There is little of the kind of action you might find in a Spillane novel. Mainly what you have here is a dogged investigator who won’t let go of the trail till he sees where it ultimately leads. Nevertheless, there is something about Dodge’s writing that is compelling and this is an absolute page-turner.
The characters here include Molly Jean, a brassy blonde in Mexico City. “She was any age you want to guess, with a sulky mouth. She greeted strange gentlemen in a form-fitting housecoat with a zipper running from neck to hem in front that practically said Pull me, kid.” But, then there is Maria Teresa, “a beautiful girl with molasses-toffee hair and honey-coloured eyes that smiles at him as if she meant it and he knows all the time that he is being suckered.”
Colby is a tough-talking PI who seems to know how to work just about anyone and is at home in foreign countries, having grown up most of his life in Mexico City as an ex-pat.
This is one terrific little novel and highly recommended.
In the first of the three books, which do not need to be read in order, Al is hired to discover if a man who left his wife is dead, so that his unpleasant ex-wife can get hold of his properties in Los Angeles. From Mexico to Chile and Spanish spots between, Al Colby’s search is imbued with a spicy flavor the reader can almost taste. It moves so quickly, however, there isn’t much time to soak it in before you’re off for answers somewhere else. Once Al is told the man is actually dead, he begins to feel it might have been murder, or perhaps something even more involved.
There’s a lovely girl named Ann “Idaho” Farrell who helps him out, and with whom Al has a romantic involvement as he attempts to sort out what happened. The crux of the mystery centers on the surviving family of the deceased in Chile, a powerful family which doesn’t want the body exhumed to confirm who is in the grave. One of them is the stunningly beautiful Teresa (Terry), who may not be as warm as Idaho but has a higher voltage. She may be protecting more than her impulsive brother Frito. Soon, the secrets being hidden lead to someone taking a shot at Al. An old murder, and a cunning deception is finally uncovered by Colby, but realizing to expose it will literally end a life, and damage others, Colby must wrestle with his next step.
The Long Escape, released in 1948, seems startlingly fresh when read today, in spite of its age. Dodge was terrific at atmosphere, using a modicum of words to describe the colorful surroundings during the goings on, placing the reader there in Al Colby’s shoes. The conversational narrative style can almost be coined as “breezy,” and before you know it, you’ve read half the book. A blending of adventure story and detective mystery, this will appeal to anyone who loves either. Dodge is most famous for To Catch a Thief because of the Hitchcock film starring Cary Grant and the lovely Grace Kelly, but he wrote other novels, and I’ve always found the Al Colby series some of his best work. Two of the three Colby stories are now available on Kindle, so there really isn’t a reason to wait. My highest recommendation.
This is the first book that I've read by David Dodge, whose name I really only knew in connection with Alfred Hitchcock's To Catch a Thief, and I enjoyed it more than I expected to. I'll definitely be reading more by him.
(Note: I use the Goodreads rating scale. 4 stars = "really liked it")