McCorkle learns about his friend Padillo's reappearance from Hardman, described here:
He was far up in the Negro numbers hierarchy, ran a thriving bookie operation, and had a crew of boosters out lifting whatever they fancied from the city's better department stores and specialty shops. He wore three- or four-hundred dollar suits and eighty-five dollar shoes and drove around town in a bronze Cadillac convertible talking to friends and acquaintances over his radio-telephone. He was a folk hero to the Negro youth in Washington and the police let him alone most of the time because he wasn't too greedy and paid his dues where it counted.Hardman starts to tell him about Padillo. This is by far my favorite quote from the book, because it is so true:
"Well, I got me a little business over in Baltimore." He paused. I waited. I prepared for a long wait. Hardman was from Alabama or Mississippi or Georgia or one of those states where they all talk alike and where it takes a long weekend to get to the point.I don't know if everyone in the South has that problem, but everyone in my family does.
This book is the 2nd in a short series of four books featuring this pair. Padillo at one time was a spy working for the US. A group of politicians from a South African nation want Padillo to carry out an assassination for them. When he refuses, they use the kidnapping of McCorkle's wife as leverage.
McCorkle narrates the novel. Here we have a man who may never see his wife again, and we can feel his despair while he tries to plan for a way to save her life. Yet still the novel remains light, not depressing. Padillo brings in a motley group of agents to help in the rescue effort and of course there are the usual twists and turns and double crosses.
We sat there in our stocking feet in the fancy apartment in the northwest section of Washington, D.C., the Negro, the Spanish-Estonian, the Pole, the Englishman, and the Scotch-Irish saloon-keeper, waiting for the Syrian-Hungarian woman to arrive. We sat there and drank the coffee in silence for fifteen minutes before the door chimes rang again.McCorkle and Padillo are likable characters. McCorkle just wants to settle down. Padillo seems to want to leave the spying business but others keep pulling him back in. The pacing is good, which helps to make the implausible story seem possible.
The Cold War Swap (1966), the first in the series, won the Edgar Award for Best First Novel. That book and this one are the only Ross Thomas books I have read, so cannot testify to his skills throughout all of his books, but I have quite a few more to try. He wrote espionage fiction and political thrillers and was the inaugural winner of the Gumshoe Lifetime Achievement Award in 2002 (posthumously). He won a second Edgar for Best Novel in 1985 for Briarpatch.
Publisher: Mysterious Press, 1987 (orig. pub. 1967)
Length: 266 pages
Series: Mac McCorkle, #2
Setting: Washington, D.C.
Genre: Spy fiction
Source: Purchased at Planned Parenthood book sale, 2007.