Fancy two nights in Lisbon? Don’t mind if I do! Sun, stunning architecture, fabulous food and drink… what’s not to like? These are all thoughts that probably run through Ariel Price’s head when her new husband John Wright invites her to join him on a business trip to the Portuguese capital.
The couple has only been married for three months, so Ariel is excitedly hoping for something of a mini-moon — and on their first day they get all romantic, exploring the sights and dining out in style. But when she awakes from a sleeping pill-induced slumber the next morning, John is gone and Ariel’s internal alarm bells begin to clang loudly.
She puts two and two together and makes… kidnap, running straight to the local police station, where the pair of detectives who listen to her story are polite but dismissive. They give her all the usual soothing platitudes – the ‘your husband has only been gone for a few hours, no need to worry, he’ll be back soon with a simple explanation and a bunch of flowers’ kind of thing. Ariel knows different and her next port of call is the US embassy, but the guy she sees there has obviously been reading the same script and she leaves frustrated and angry at all the inaction.
Then things change when Ariel receives a ransom demand. The kidnappers want €3 million — a substantial sum and she has no idea of how to get it, with things made even more difficult by the fact that it is the July 4th holiday back home. Everything is closed there and people have turned off their phones for the long weekend.
A dead end then? And presumably a dead husband? Time to sit down and weep uncontrollably, perhaps? But what she does next shows a different side to the panicked new bride and suddenly, little snippets of things that we’ve already read come into the sharpest of focus. Because Ariel is not what she at first appears – and, apparently, neither is John.
To say anything more here would spoil things, but probably best if you expect the unexpected as an increasingly resolute Ariel begins to morph into someone we haven’t yet met. Think protective lioness on steroids and you’ll get an idea of how far she will go to get her own way. With the Lisbon Police, US embassy staff and even the CIA on her tail, she will need her wits about her to sort all of this out in satisfactory fashion. Thankfully, this is a woman with wits in abundance…
Fasten your seat belts, folks – because what starts out as a seemingly run of the mill abduction thriller soon has the tension turned up to 11, in the process sending the reader veering between yelling support for the harried wife and then crying out in frustration as she does something else that seems both dangerous and bordering on lunacy. Don’t blink, because you’ll likely miss something vitally important as the action whizzes along like a Formula One racing car.
Two Nights in Lisbon is an edgy and surprising read, wrong-footing the reader at every end and turn as the pages zip by. There are thrills and spills, surprises and shocks, all set against a gloriously rendered backdrop. Chris Pavone has made a name for himself with his suspenseful thrillers and this latest offering can only enhance that reputation further, because it is a cracker of a read. We’ve seen The Expats, The Paris Diversion, The Travelers and The Accident, and this is his best novel yet.
Phew, I think I need a holiday after all that excitement. Anyone fancy a quiet couple of nights somewhere?
Head of Zeus
CFL Rating: 5 Stars