A kidnapper's plan goes wrong

2008-10-02 08:05

TIM Keegan's crime caper is marketed as a satire that turns the stock-standard comic thriller on its head. This being his second book, Keegan has detoured a long way from his writing background as a history academic. He describes his move to the novel-writing world simply: “I was getting bored with academic writing”.

Working as a novelist now allows Keegan's imagination to wander, and thus requires a disassociation of any presumed links between author and characters. And for anyone who has little affinity for satirical comedy (especially in the South African context), Tromp's Last Stand should be steered clear of.

Meet Jake Tromp, a former soldier, heavy drinker, gun dealer and private eye who has lost his home and his wife. It's difficult to say whether there is a more nauseating character in South African literature. Tromp is the archetypal street bum - only worse. He is hired to recover money from a bogus scheme run by a crooked businessman by kidnapping his daughter. The plan goes wrong from the start when they kidnap the family's au pair instead.

The street-wise au pair - the daughter of a Miami-based casino owner - assumes an active role in her own kidnapping and schemes with Jake to kidnap the businessman's daughter and rip off her old man at the same time. Enter into the fiasco two Cuban-American heavies, a dubious lawyer, an ex-cop and more police, and there's plenty of double-crossing to keep track of.

While there are aspects that are fairly funny, the central problem in this mosh pot of creepy characters is an anti-hero who has no redeeming quality.

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