Blog Tour Book Talk: “A Jolly Good Fellow,” by Stephen V. Masse

Thanks to Tracee Gleichner at Pump Up Your Book Promotion for the opportunity to read and review this book!

A Jolly Good Fellow by Stephen V. Masse
A Jolly Good Fellow
Stephen V. Masse
Good Harbor Press, 2007 (paperback) (ISBN 097996380X / 9780979963803)
Fiction, 220 pages

First sentence: He’s out there hitchhiking.

Book description: Two weeks before Christmas, Duncan Wagner gets into his car for another attempt at kidnapping the son of his most despised enemy, State Representative Win Booker. When he drives into the wealthy Boston suburb, he is surprised to find the boy hitchhiking. So begins Wagner’s quest for revenge as he finds himself face to face with a real boy, and without a clue about how to run a kidnapping. Wagner, a self-styled charity Santa Claus, comes to realize that eleven year old Gabriel Booker is truly a runaway, much more curious than scared. Gabriel has no idea who Duncan Wagner is—or could be.

Comments: For some time now, Duncan Wagner has been planning to kidnap the son of State Rep. Win Booker, the man he despises most in the world. The day he acts on the plan happens to be the same day that the boy, 11-year-old Gabriel, decides to run away from home, and Duncan picks him up hitchhiking. Duncan has no intention of harming the boy – he just wants to keep him long enough to make his parents nervous enough to pay $100,000 to get him back by Christmas, and he really needs the money. He’s an odd-job kind of guy, and his current occupation as a street-corner “charity Santa Claus” (with himself as sole beneficiary) won’t keep him going past the next couple of weeks.

Gabriel, for his part, doesn’t seem to mind being kidnapped or the prospect of spending a few days in Duncan’s Boston apartment, as long as he believes that Duncan won’t hurt him and that he’ll be home for Christmas, although he’s not entirely confident his father will pay the ransom.

Duncan and Gabriel are both engaging, believably flawed characters, and the unlikely bond that develops between them is what makes A Jolly Good Fellow a fast, enjoyable read. Gabriel is a bright, curious, mostly sweet kid, and Duncan is lonely and generally well-meaning, regardless of his small-time criminality. The story of their adventure together is sometimes predictable, but at other times it kept me guessing; while I had my suspicions about Duncan’s motivation about halfway through the book (and they turned out to be correct), the author doesn’t tip his hand to reveal it until almost the very end.

The story is narrated in Duncan’s voice, and Stephen Masse has made him a very convincing and believable character, even if the story itself is a bit less so. The characters captured my sympathies, I was eager to see what happened to them, and I was ultimately satisfied with the outcome. I plan to add A Jolly Good Fellow to the stack of books I bring out every Christmas; without preachiness or a heavy hand, it’s a fine story for the holiday season – or any other time of year.

Rating: 3.25/5

Other bloggers’ reviews:
Musings of a Bookish Kitty
Literarily
Bobbi’s Book Nook
Book-a-rama 


*** If you have reviewed this book, please leave a link in the comments or e-mail it to me at 3.rsblog AT Gmail dot com and I’ll edit this review to include it! ***

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