Andrew Hilleman’s debut novel tells the story of the first recorded kidnapping and ransom in United States history, set in the gritty Wild West.
Who is Pat Crowe? Believe it or not, he really existed. Crowe was an American pioneer who rose to prominence in the 1900s after he pulled off a plot to kidnap the son of a wealthy family and demanded $25,000 for his safe return. He was a man so famous that when he was brought back to Omaha in police custody many years later, he drew a larger crowd than Theodore Roosevelt did when he made a campaign stop to the same area.
His actions and the ensuing investigations and media coverage were dubbed “the thrill of the nation.” While the character is real, Hilleman’s story is a fictional account, though it does remain fairly accurate.
The book opens with a letter from an aging, somewhat frail Crowe who then reflects on his past actions, which are broken down into separate flashback scenes that together make up the novel.
While kidnapping the sixteen-year-old son of a wealthy businessman named Edward Cudahy, along with his accomplice and friend, Billy Cavanaugh, things don’t go according to plan. Cudahy recognizes Crowe, who must then go on the run to avoid being arrested.
His journey takes him all around the globe–including a lengthy stay in Japan before leaving footprints in London and South America–where he engaged in numerous eye-raising escapades. Through the first-person narrative, all that led up to Crowe’s decision to kidnap Cudahy’s son is eventually revealed. And while the story bounces around, that remains the focal point of the plot.
Eventually, Crowe returns back to the States, where he continues his bad-boy ways until he’s arrested and put on trial to answer for past sins. However, in a turn of events, Crowe realizes that the public opinion is split between two groups of people: those who consider him to be a thuggish outlaw, and those who imagine him as a Robin Hood-like folk hero.
Capitalizing on those who support him, Crowe manages to turn the trial into a chaotic showdown. Those pages are actually some of the strongest parts of the book and the most fun to read.
As the pages turn, Crowe, serving as the narrator, opens up about his life and even offers a somewhat surprising ending that is both insightful and emotional.
The writing is smooth and the plot is crisp, never getting too far off its mark. The fact that the bulk of the story is based on truth is fascinating, and Crowe quickly becomes fun to learn about–a tribute to Hilleman’s writing style. I do think the story itself lacked the explosive or high-tension moments that readers look for in a great thriller, but overall, World, Chase Me Down is a solid, fun read.
Fans of historical fiction and westerns will especially enjoy Andrew Hilleman’s impressive, entertaining debut that reads like a mash-up of Catch Me If You Can and The Magnificent Seven.
Author: Andrew Hilleman
Pages: 352 (Paperback)
Publisher: Penguin Books
Release Date: January 24, 2017 (Order Now!)