Some of Bev's Favorite Quotes...



Attention All Challengers! I have returned from the Wild West and have posted review sites where needed. I am working on the Check-in Posts for the Just the Facts & Mount TBR challenges. Stay tuned!

Monday, April 23, 2018

The Zero Trap: Review

The Zero Trap (1979) by Paula Gosling is what I'm going to dare to call a soft-boiled thriller. We are in the late 1970s onboard a U.S. army plane with nine passengers who are gassed in mid-flight from the Mideast and wake up to find themselves hostages somewhere in the frozen landscape of Finland. The hostages are a fairly motley group: a sexy nightclub singer, an astronomy professor, a policeman and the accused murderer he was to escort back to the States, an engineer with his wife and son, a military man, and our heroine, Laura--the daughter of a general with connections to the United Nations.

When the hostages wake up from their drug-induced sleep, they find a note propped on the mantelpiece explaining their situation:

DO NOT TRY TO ESCAPE BECAUSE YOU WILL DIE IF YOU DO. THERE IS NO WAY OUT.
YOU ARE BEING HELD PRISONERS FOR REASONS WHICH DO NOT CONCERN YOU.
WHEN OUR ENDS HAVE BEEN ACHIEVED, YOU WILL BE RELEASED.
THERE IS FOOD ENOUGH.
THERE IS FUEL ENOUGH.
YOU WILL BE COMFORTABLE.
ACCEPT AND YOU WILL LIVE.
WE ARE SORRY FOR THE INCONVENIENCE.

How very polite. But of course the group finds it difficult to just accept their plight and it is the mild-mannered Professor Skinner who begins thinking of ways to outwit their captors--from devising a means for sending coding messages in the photographs taken of them (to prove to the outside world the captives are alive and well) to cannibalizing materials from the house to make a snowsuit and "boots" to brave the cold [they've been left with few clothes and nothing that would withstand the freezing temperatures]. 

Meanwhile, General Ainslie (Laura's dad) is informed that his daughter's plane has gone missing and when he gets a list of the passengers, he and his staff try to figure out what the motive might be. He's very concerned that the hi-jacking has been aimed at him--because of his connections to a U.N. effort to build an Arctic model-city. That makes his daughter a target. But the target could also be Professor Skinner whose brother is Captain in the British navy and involved in the intrigues of the Cold War. Or possibly Sergeant Goade is more than just the Embassy supply sergeant he's listed as. Could the engineering job that took Tom Morgan to the Middle East have been more important than any one knew? But when a message aimed at Ainslie comes direct from the terrorists, he's sure his daughter is the primary hostage. 

The demands are steep--$3 million in gold, various specified  prisoners released, a command performance concert with very particular musicians and conductor, and....by the way, the cancellation of the U.N.'s pet project in the Arctic. The first three will be complicated--but do-able. Ainslie insists to his go-between contact that he doesn't have the influence the terrorists obviously think he has--nobody is going to cancel such a project because he asks them to. Captain Skinner arrives and the men plan how to find the hostages before time runs out. And when the photographs start coming in, Skinner is sure his brother is trying to tell them something in the pictures--but what?

It's a race against time on both sides--and it's complicated by the fact that somewhere in the midst of the hostages there is a secret agent on the run. Then the hostages begin die. Is the agent responsible? Or is there another motive for murder among the nine disparate people?

This is a lively thriller. Gosling's strength is in her characters--particularly Laura, Professor Skinner, and the Morgan's young son, Timothy. Skinner is really fleshed out with a back-story that explains much of his motivation for various actions and interactions which he has with some of the other men. The dual story lines (following the hostages and then following actions of General Ainsley's group) works really well here. I don't always enjoy stories with multiple viewpoints or that jump back and forth between scenes, but Gosling's presentation is smooth and interesting. She also gives the story a few definite twists, producing an exhilarating and surprising ending. ★★★★

My good friend Yvette reviewed this one several years ago. Be sure to check out her take on it HERE.

[Finished on 4/8/18]

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