Hostage Taker Review
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Anyone who’s spent a brainless Friday night watching crime shows on TV can tell you that, sometimes, the best training won’t help you solve a crime. Sometimes, you need something more—a different kind of experience. And that’s what a street-smart team of crime-fighting criminals brings to author Stefanie Pintoff’s Hostage Taker.

The story begins early one winter morning, as a hostage situation unfolds at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral in Manhattan. The hostage taker demands to speak with Eve Rossi of the FBI, asking her to gather five witnesses who share an unknown connection. As the crisis shuts down one of the busiest parts of the city, Eve is under pressure to handle the situation, rescue the hostages, and save a national landmark in the process. So, with a deadline looming, she calls in her top-secret team of ex-cons to help her search for answers and stop a man who seems determined to make his targets pay for their sins.

Hostage Taker tells a tense story about a crisis that strikes an iconic cathedral in the middle of the holiday season, terrifying tourists and bringing the bustling city streets to a standstill as Eve and her unlikely teammates race against the clock to stop the hostage taker before he claims another victim.

But after the situation is introduced—and before the tension really gets a chance to build—Pintoff turns her back on the hostages being held inside the cathedral and takes the time to introduce each member of the team. And instead of getting to know the characters as they work and interact together, readers are taken out of the action, transported to the bedrooms and basketball courts and awkward holiday parties where Eve finds them.

Of course, it’s understandable that Pintoff would want to spend some time introducing the characters—especially since Hostage Taker is the first installment in a new series. But she spends so much time telling each story—stories that, for the most part, have little to do with the hostage situation—that it brings the action to a grinding halt. And some readers may be so frustrated by the distraction that they’ll either skim through the lengthy character introductions or simply give up.

Once the players have all been introduced and the focus returns back to the hostage situation, though, the novel begins to build in both pacing and suspense. As the team searches for the information that will help Eve identify the hostage taker and end the hostage situation, more of the story unfolds. Each team member has specific abilities, and they’re forced to overcome their differences—and often their dislike of one another—to save both the cathedral and the innocent people trapped inside it. The case becomes more about the hostage taker, his story, and his motives. And, in the end, those readers who battle their way through the prolonged set-up will be treated to a gripping conclusion.

Admittedly, it takes some effort to get into the action of Hostage Taker—and the extensive character development can be more frustrating than beneficial. But the story that eventually unfolds is tense and thoughtful. And now that the characters have been introduced, Pintoff should be free to use them to build a sharp new crime series.

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