Undercover, by Danielle Steel, Random House, $32.99
AS usual, Danielle Steel has come up with the kind of story that you really don't want to put down, and really want to keep reading long after you have reached the end.
However, I am still waiting for Steel to learn to write, as opposed to being able to come up with stories. Surely she should realise by now that her writing is extremely stilted in any and every novel that she writes? Surely this has been critiqued time after time after time? Wouldn't you think there would be a ghost writer who could make the copy flow more like every other published author? Then again, if we keep buying them, probably not!
This time, there will be added criticisms; don't think for one moment that this one is an original plot. It has amazing similarities to the kidnapping of Patty Hearst in California in 1974, and steals little details from other kidnappings, for example the jail-like box in the ground.
In real life, Hearst was blindfolded and put in the boot of a car, and was held by the Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA). Her ransom came when the SLA demanded that her family give away $2 million in food to the needy, then asked for $6 million more. She joined the SLA and declared that she did so voluntarily, having allegedly been given a choice of death or co-operation.
In Steel's book, Ariana Gregory is kidnapped by revolutionaries in Argentina after travelling there to help her father's role as ambassador for the United States. She falls in love with the revolutionary leader, Jorge, who asks for $20 million in ransom money to look after the poor, in exchange for her life.
Ring any bells?
Like Hearst, she stays with the revolutionaries and embraces their way of life, becoming brainwashed, pregnant, happy and indoctrinated with the evil capitalism of her former life.
When the FBI rescues her, she screams in outrage and demands to stay with her lover, even as he is burnt to death during the exercise. Ariana has a miscarriage that night, and her father dies of a heart attack the next day, leaving her alone in the world.
During a deprogramming in Paris she meets a former undercover agent, Marshall Everett, who is in semi-retirement after taking a bullet for the President's wife while working with the social service in the United States.
He rescues Ariana from the brother of her one-time revolutionary lover, and the rest is . . . as you imagine.