Review: Held For Ransom by Russell Atkinson


Title: Held For Ransom {Cliff Knowles Mystery #1}

Author: Russell Atkinson

Published: October 2011

Status: Read from June 28 to 29, 2013 — I own a copy {Courtesy the author}

My Thoughts:

I accepted Held For Ransom for review largely based on the author’s twenty five year career as a FBI Special Agent. Atkinson claims to have specialized in high-technology crimes in Silicon Valley, and Held for Ransom is based on a real life kidnapping case he worked on.

FBI Special Agent Cliff Knowles is the first to respond when the kidnapping of a wealthy software company president is reported. His wife claims to have received a ransom call demanding $650,000 for his safe return but her odd behaviour means that initially the Bureau fails to take the case seriously. Despite his superiors concerns, Knowles is almost certain that the woman is telling the truth, no one has seen or heard from the victim for more than six hours and his car has been discovered abandoned in the company parking lot. As Knowles tries to kick start an investigation the victim waits, bound and blindfolded, praying for rescue.

Held For Ransom is a detailed police procedural that follows the kidnapping case from first report through to its resolution. The reader is witness to the grind of bureaucracy as the FBI consider and disregard theories, gather information, follow clues, interview witnesses and tries to make sense of the crime. Atkinson reveals the achievements and the challenges of the investigation as they hunt for the perpetrators in a time before the ubiquity of cell phones and personal computers. Slowly suspects are identified and rescue plans are made, but not everything goes to plan.

I think Held For Ransom is well written, there are a few minor issues but overall the tone and style is consistent. I did find the way in which real life investigation deviates from the simplified version presented in film and blockbuster fiction interesting but it does tend to slow the pace and I found my attention drifting more than once.

The characters are sketches highlighting the varied personalities of the FBI team and how they impact on the investigation. There is the the ego driven boss and his sycophantic assistant, uncooperative secretaries and agents of mixed ability and motivation. Knowles integrity and dedication makes him a stand out in a workplace beset by his colleagues ego’s, career ambitions and petty politics. I have to admit I am a little disheartened by the cynical portrayal of the FBI, I don’t doubt it’s accuracy but it is a little worrying.

Overall I enjoyed Held For Ransom, it is an interesting, insiders perspective of of the FBI and their investigative methods in the mid – late 1980’s. I think this book would particularly appeal to fans of the police procedural and true crime genres.

Available to Purchase

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3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Annie
    Jun 30, 2013 @ 18:36:11

    Great review! Silicon Valley in the 1980s would have been a very interesting place. 🙂



  2. Jade
    Jun 30, 2013 @ 19:27:00

    This book sounds right up my street… I throroughly enjoy all things crime, particularly the investigation side. Thanks for the review 🙂

    My Book Bubble



  3. Kate Loveday
    Jul 03, 2013 @ 20:59:10

    A perceptive and well considered review. Thanks Shelleyrae.



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