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24 Hours

24 Hours

3.8 65
by Greg Iles, Dick Hill (Read by)

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Greg Iles's novels have been praised for their unusual depth of characterization and complexity of plot, and The Quiet Game was no exception. Reviewers called it "beautifully crafted" (The Providence Sunday Journal), "heartbreakingly honest" (Cleveland Plain Dealer), and simply "a grand thriller with a wonderful Southern seasoning" (The Orange


Greg Iles's novels have been praised for their unusual depth of characterization and complexity of plot, and The Quiet Game was no exception. Reviewers called it "beautifully crafted" (The Providence Sunday Journal), "heartbreakingly honest" (Cleveland Plain Dealer), and simply "a grand thriller with a wonderful Southern seasoning" (The Orange County Register). In 24 Hours, Iles takes readers on a daringly executed roller-coaster ride with enough twists and surprises to last a lifetime.

24 Hours begins with the perfect family. On the perfect night. About to become trapped in the perfect crime. Will Jennings is a successful young doctor in Jackson, Mississippi, with a thriving practice, a beautiful wife, and a five-year-old daughter he loves beyond measure. But Will and his family are being watched by a con man and psychopath who may be a genius. A man who has crafted the unbeatable crime. A man who has never been caught and whose victims have never talked to the police. A man whose life's work strikes at the heart of every family's unspoken fear: the unstoppable kidnapping.

But this man has never met the likes of Will and Karen Jennings.

"Here is a major talent strutting his considerable stuff."-The Denver Post (review of The Quiet Game)

Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble.com
Our Review
24 Hours to Live -- or Die
24 Hours is Greg Iles's fifth novel in a little over seven years. Not surprisingly, it represents a sharp departure from everything that has come before. Iles's first two novels, Spandau Phoenix and Black Cross were big, ambitious historical thrillers set against the backdrop of World War II. They were followed, in turn, by Mortal Fear a sophisticated, high-tech serial killer story, and by 1999's The Quiet Game a contemporary Southern Gothic rooted in the recent history of race relations in Mississippi. In deliberate contrast to these earlier novels, each of which operates on a grand, almost epic scale, 24 Hours is a spare, tightly compressed account of kidnapping and revenge that takes place, as the title implies, within a single, dramatic, 24 hour period.

Two very different families dominate the new novel. The first of these is an oddly matched trio of serial kidnappers headed by Joe Hickey, embittered ex-con, sexual sadist, and designer of an elegant, very nearly foolproof kidnapping scheme. Aiding Hickey are Cheryl Tilly, his abused and beautiful wife, and Huey Cotton, a gentle, mentally deficient giant who will do almost anything to please his cousin Joe. Once a year for the last five years, these three have pulled off -- with absolute impunity -- a flawlessly orchestrated series of abductions, each of which targeted the son or daughter of a prominent Mississippi physician. As the novel opens, they are about to stage the sixth -- and final -- iteration of the same basic plan.

The intended victims, this time out, are the Jennings family. Will Jennings is a wealthy anesthesiologist currently approaching the peak of his profession. His wife, Karen, is a discontented housewife whose own medical career was cut short by an unplanned pregnancy. The product of that pregnancy was Abbie Jennings, who is now five years old, and who suffers from a chronic, potentially fatal case of juvenile diabetes. The violent conjunction of these two families will occupy one full day, and will alter the lives of everyone involved.

When Will Jennings leaves his family to attend a medical conference in Biloxi, Hickey and his cohorts abduct Will's daughter, setting in motion a complex plan whose success depends on speed, on the strict segregation of all participants, and on the prompt, unhindered delivery of a relatively modest ransom. The plan, which has worked so spectacularly in the past, begins, almost immediately, to go wrong. To start with, Abbie's medical condition introduces a number of unanticipated complications. Additionally, Will and Karen prove more resourceful -- and, when necessary, more ruthless -- than any of Hickey's earlier victims, two of whom -- James and Margaret McDill -- belatedly decide to reveal the details of their own son's abduction, one year before. Most significantly, Hickey himself reveals a previously undisclosed personal agenda, an agenda that separates this particular kidnapping from the five that went before.

24 Hours is not only Iles's shortest, most sharply focused novel to date, it is also his most cinematic. With an almost effortless facility, Iles moves the narrative along from scene to scene and location to location, cutting cleanly back and forth from the ostentatious luxury of a Biloxi casino to the sharecropper's cabin where Abbie Jennings lies hidden from view, and from the upscale elegance of the Jennings residence to the headquarters of the FBI, where a full scale manhunt gradually takes shape. The extended closing sequence, which involves an airborne pursuit, an emergency landing on a crowded Mississippi highway, and a climactic confrontation between kidnappers and victims, is rendered in colorful, highly visual prose that cries out to be filmed. Someday, it probably will be.

24 Hours may not be Iles's most ambitious novel, but it is nonetheless a first-rate entertainment: involving, expertly constructed, and, at its best, viscerally exciting. As always, Iles exhibits an uncommon combination of intelligence, ingenuity, and sheer narrative energy, reinforcing his position as one of the most consistently interesting popular novelists to emerge in America in recent years. If you haven't made his acquaintance yet, I urge you to do so soon. He's a good young writer who is steadily getting better, and he deserves the success he seems almost certain to achieve.

--Bill Sheehan

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
HAs close to family fare as a kidnapper-rapist-extortionist thriller can get, Iles's (The Quiet Game) latest brilliantly plotted tale walks the razor's edge between cinematic excess and bone-chilling suspense. Joe Hickey is a Southern redneck with an Ivy League talent for evil. He has trained his grossly huge, mentally challenged cousin, Huey, and his gorgeous, exotic-dancer, live-in lover, Cheryl, to work with him as part of a tightly controlled kidnap/extortion squad targeting Mississippi physicians' families while the doctors are off at conferences. But he hits a snag when Dr. Will Jennings, his wife, Karen, and their five-and-a-half-year-old daughter, Abby, prove as resourceful solo as they are formidable in tandem. Joe grabs Abby, turning her over to Huey, who drives her off to a remote forest cabin near Jackson; meanwhile, Joe stays behind to terrorize Karen in the Jennings home. Cheryl gets her hooks into the third family member by vamping her way into Will's hotel room in Biloxi, where Will receives a phone call and ransom demand from Joe, who stipulates delivery in 24 hours. It's a long, horrific night for all as Iles pits each of the captives against their captors in riveting battles of will. The well-rounded characters are trademark Iles, the plot runs speed-skating smooth and occasional near-gooey bits of dialogue are offset by nasty surprises and perfectly timed terror. The one-on-one conflicts punch up the pace, and a perfect Mississippi setting, a spot-on sendup of FBI assistance and a hair-raising finale complete the package. Major ad/promo; Literary Guild and BOMC alternates. (Aug.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
While Will Jennings is speaking at a medical conference in Biloxi, MS, his five-year-old daughter, Abby, is kidnapped and his wife, Karen, held hostage by psychopath Joe Hickey. With his wife, Cheryl, and cousin Huey, Joe has gotten away with five similar ransoms of doctors' children, but this one is different because he blames Will for the death of his mother. For those willing to overlook the unpleasantness of Abby's fear and Joe's sexual threat to Karen, this suspenseful tale is exciting, especially in the final chapters when Will must cope with the clumsy interference of the FBI. Just as Iles made computers central to the plot of Mortal Fear, he cleverly uses cellular phones and private planes here. By exaggerating some of the Southern accents, the normally excellent Dick Hill makes the events seem more melodramatic than the author intended. Recommended for thriller collections.--Michael Adams, CUNY Graduate Ctr. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Internet Book Watch
Six new releases by this publisher provide excellent, involving abridged readings which will attract audiobook fans. Greg Iles' 24 Hours is a highly recommended thriller spiced with twists and turns and veteran DickHill's reading. A 'perfect family' becomes trapped in the perfect crime which is a nightmare. Ridley Pearson's Middle Of Nowhere (893-1, $24.95) is read by the author and tells of a police district plagued by absences and a crime wave. One man must struggle with the entire department and his own marriage. T. Davis Bunn's Great Divide (928-8, $24.95) will appeal to listeners of courtroom dramas, with Buck Schirner's reading enhancing the story of a lawyer's new, distraught clients in a small town. Patricia Gaffney's Circle Of Three (930-X, $24.95) tells of three generations of women who struggle with grief and relationships. Dean Robertson's reading brings their stories to life. Elizabeth Lowell's Midnight In Ruby Bayou (902-4, $24.95) provides a mixed novel of adventure and suspense, with Laural Merlington at the helm reading of Faith Donovan, a jewelry maker who is drawn into a world of greed and corruption. Stewart O'Nan's Circus Fire (936-9, $24.95) re-creates the Great Hartford circus fire of 1944, telling of a huge fire which took the lives of 167 people in the town. All are outstanding audio listens.
—Internet Book Watch
Kirkus Reviews
A tepid thriller from bestselling Iles (The Quiet Game, 1999, etc.) in which an upscale family falls victim to a not-so-typical kidnapping masterminded by a psychopath with more than money on his mind.

From the Publisher
Brilliantly plotted...perfectly-timed terror...and a hair-raising finale. Publishers Weekly (starred review)

The tension in palpable...superbly-crafted and clever. —The Times-London

A chilling tale...calculated to jangle the reader's every nerve...gut-wrenching. —Library Journal

A taut tale, terrifying in its intensity, compelling in its pace...A good, old-fashioned thriller, the likes of which are rare...A winner. —Chattanooga Times

Product Details

Brilliance Audio
Publication date:
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
5.37(w) x 7.50(h) x 0.50(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

"The kid always makes it. I told you that."

Margaret McDill had not seen the man in her life until yesterday, but he had dominated every second of her existence since their meeting. He had told her to call him Joe, and he claimed it was his real name, but she assumed it was an alias. He was a dark-haired, pale-skinned man of about fifty, with deep-set eyes and a coarse five-o'clock shadow. Margaret could not look into his eyes for long. They were dark, furious pools that sucked the life out of her, drained her will. And now they carried knowledge about her that she could not bear.

"I don't believe you," she said quietly.

Something rippled deep in the dark eyes, like the flick of a fish tail. "Have I lied to you about anything else?"

"No. But you...you let me see your face all night. You won't let me go after that."

"I told you, the kid always makes it."

"You're going to kill me and let my son go."

"You think I'm going to shoot you in broad daylight in front of a freakin' McDonald's?"

"You have a knife in your pocket."

He looked at her with scorn. "Jesus Christ."

Margaret looked down at her hands. She didn't want to look at Joe, and she didn't want to chance seeing herself in one of the mirrors. The one at home had been bad enough. She looked like someone who had just come out of surgery, still groggy with anesthesia. An unhealthy glaze filmed her eyes, and even heavy makeup had failed to hide the bruise along her jaw. Four of her painstakingly maintained nails had broken during the night, and there was a long scratch on her inner forearm from the initial scuffle. She tried toremember exactly when that had happened but couldn't. Her sense of time had abandoned her. She was having trouble keeping her thoughts in order. Even the simplest ones seemed to fall out of sequence by themselves.

She tried to regain control by focusing on her immediate environment. They were sitting in her BMW, in the parking lot of a strip mall, about fifty yards from a McDonald's restaurant. She had often shopped at the mall, at the Barnes & Noble superstore, and also at the pet store, for rare tropical fish. Her husband had recently bought a big-screen television at Circuit City, for patient education at his clinic. He was a cardiovascular surgeon. But all that seemed part of someone else's life now. As remote as the bright side of the moon to someone marooned on the dark half. And her son, Peter...God alone knew where he was. God and the man beside her.

"I don't care what you do with me," she said with conviction. "Just let Peter live. Kill me if you have to, just let my son go. He's only ten years old."

"If you don't shut up, I might take you up on that," Joe said wearily.

He started the BMW's engine and switched the air conditioner to high, then lit a Camel cigarette. The cold air blasted smoke all over the interior of the car. Margaret's eyes stung from hours of crying. She turned her head to avoid the smoke, but it was useless.

"Where's Peter now?" she asked, her voice barely a whisper.

Joe took a drag off the Camel and said nothing.

"I said-"

"Didn't I tell you to stop talking?"

Margaret glanced at the pistol lying on the console between the seats. It belonged to her husband. Joe had taken it from her yesterday, but not before she had learned how useless a gun was to her. At least while they had Peter. Some primitive part of her brain still urged her to grab it, but she doubted she could reach the pistol before he did. He was probably waiting for her to try just that. Joe was thin but amazingly strong, another thing she'd learned last night. And his hard-lined face held no mercy.

"He's dead, isn't he," Margaret heard herself say. "You're just playing games with me. He's dead and you're going to kill me, too-"

"Jesus Christ," Joe said through clenched teeth. He turned over his forearm and glanced at his watch. He wore it on the inside of his wrist so that Margaret couldn't see the time.

"I think I'm going to be sick," she said.

"Again?" He punched a number into the BMW's cell phone. As he waited for an answer, he muttered, "I do believe this has been the worst twenty-four hours of my life to date. And that includes our little party."

She flinched.

"Hey," he said into the phone. "You in your spot?...Okay. Wait about a minute, then do it."

Margaret jerked erect, her eyes wide, searching the nearby cars. "Oh my God. Peter! Peter!"

Joe picked up the gun and jammed the barrel into her neck. "You've come this far, Maggie. Don't blow it now. You remember what we talked about?"

She closed her eyes and nodded.

"I didn't hear you."

Tears rolled down her cheeks. "I remember."

A hundred yards from Margaret McDill's BMW, Peter McDill sat in an old green pickup truck, his eyes shut tight. The truck smelled funny. Good and bad at the same time, like just-cut grass and old motor oil, and really old fast food.

"You can open your eyes now."

Peter opened his eyes.

The first thing he saw was a McDonald's restaurant. It reassured him after his night of isolation. The McDonald's stood in the middle of a suburban strip mall parking lot. As Peter panned his eyes around the mall, he recognized the stores: Office Depot, Barnes & Noble, the Gateway 2000 store. He'd spent hours in that store. It was only a few miles from his house. He looked down at his wrists, which were bound with duct tape.

"Can you take this off now?"

He asked without looking up. The man behind the wheel of the truck was hard for him to look at. Peter had never seen or heard of Huey before yesterday, but for the last twenty-four hours, he had seen no one else. Huey was six inches taller than his father, and weighed at least three hundred pounds. He wore dirty mechanic's coveralls and heavy plastic glasses of a type Peter had seen in old movies, with thick lenses that distorted his eyes. He reminded Peter of a character in a movie he'd seen on the satellite one night, when he sneaked into the home theater room. A movie his parents wouldn't let him watch. The character's name was Carl, and the boy who was Carl's friend in the movie said he sounded like a motorboat. Carl was nice, but he killed people, too. Peter thought Huey was probably like that.

"When I was a little boy," Huey said, peering thoughtfully through the windshield of the pickup, "those golden arches went all the way over the top of the restaurant. The whole place looked like a spaceship." He looked back at Peter, his too-big eyes apologetic behind the thick glasses. "I'm sorry I had to tape you up. But you shouldn't of run. I told you not to run."

Peter's eyes welled with tears. "Where's my mom? You said she was going to be here."

"She's gonna be here. She's probably here already."

Through the heat shimmering off the asphalt, Peter scanned the sea of parked cars, his eyes darting everywhere, searching for his mother's BMW. "I don't see her car."

Huey dug down into his front coverall pocket.

Peter instinctively slid against the door of the pickup truck.

"Look, boy," Huey said in his deep but childlike voice. "I made you something."

The giant hand emerged from the pocket and opened to reveal a carved locomotive. Peter had watched Huey whittling for much of the previous afternoon, but he hadn't been able to tell what Huey was working on. The little train in the massive palm looked like a toy from an expensive store. Huey put the carving into Peter's bound hands.

"I finished it while you was sleeping," he said. "I like trains. I rode one once. When I was little. From St. Louis, after Mamaw died. Joey rode up by hisself on the train and got me. We rode back together. I got to sit in front with the rich people. We wasn't supposed to, but Joey figured a way. Joey's smart. He said it was only fair. He says I'm good as anybody. Ain't nobody no better than nobody else. That's a good thing to remember."

Peter stared at the little locomotive. There was even a tiny engineer inside.

"Whittlin's a good thing, too," Huey went on. "Keeps me from being nervous."

Peter closed his eyes. "Where's my mom?"

"I liked talking to you. Before you ran, anyway. I thought you was my friend."

Peter covered his face with his hands, but he kept an eye on Huey through a crack between his left cheek and palm. Now that he knew where he was, he thought about jumping out. But Huey was faster than he looked.

Huey dug into his coveralls again and brought out his pocketknife. When he opened the big blade, Peter pressed himself into the passenger door.

"What are you doing?"

Huey grabbed Peter's bound wrists and jerked them away from his body. With a quick jab he thrust the knife between Peter's forearms and sawed through the duct tape. Then he reached over and unlocked the passenger door of the truck.

"Your mama's waiting for you. In the playground. At the McDonald's."

Peter looked up at the giant's face, afraid to believe.

"Go see her, boy."

Peter pushed open the truck's door, jumped to the pavement, and started running toward the McDonald's.

Joe reached across Margaret McDill's lap and opened the passenger door of the BMW. His smoky black hair brushed against her neck as he did, and she shuddered. She had seen his gray roots during the night.

"Your kid's waiting in the McDonald's Playland," he said.

Margaret's heart lurched. She looked at the open door, then back at Joe, who was caressing the BMW's leather-covered steering wheel.

"Sure wish I could keep this ride," he said with genuine regret. "Got used to this. Yes, sir."

"Take it."

"That's not part of the plan. And I always stick to the plan. That's why I'm still around."

As she stared, he opened the driver's door, got out, dropped the keys on the seat, and started walking away.

Margaret sat for a moment without breathing, mistrustful as an injured animal being released into the wild. Then she bolted from the car. With a spastic gait born from panic and exhaustion, she ran toward the McDonald's, gasping a desperate mantra: "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want....The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want....The Lord is my shepherd..."

Huey stopped his green pickup beside his cousin Joe with a screech of eroded brake pads. Two men standing under the roofed entrance of the Barnes & Noble looked over at the sound. They looked like bums hoping to pass themselves off as customers and spend the morning reading the papers on the sofas inside the bookstore. Joe Hickey silently wished them good luck. He'd been that far down before.

When he climbed into the cab, Huey looked at him with the relief of a two-year-old at its returning mother.

"Hey, Joey," Huey said, his head bobbing with relief and excitement.

"Twenty-three hours, ten minutes," Hickey said, tapping his watch. "Cheryl's got the money, nobody got hurt, and no FBI in sight. I'm a goddamn genius, son. Master of the universe."

"I'm just glad it's over," said Huey. "I was scared this time."

Hickey laughed and tousled the hair on Huey's great unkempt head. "Home free for another year, Buckethead."

A smile slowly appeared on the giant's rubbery face. "Yeah." He put the truck into gear, eased forward, and joined the flow of traffic leaving the mall.

Peter McDill stood in the McDonald's Playland like a statue in a hurricane. Toddlers and teenagers tore around him with abandon, leaping on and off the foam-padded playground equipment in their sock feet. The screeches and laughter were deafening. Peter searched among them for his mother, his eyes wet. In his right hand he clutched the carved locomotive Huey had given him, utterly unaware that he was holding it.

The glass door of the restaurant opened, and a woman with frosted hair and wild eyes appeared in it. She looked like his mother, but not exactly. This woman was different somehow. She looked too old, and her clothes were torn. She pushed two children out of the doorway, which his mother would never do, and began looking frantically around the playground. Her gaze jumped from child to child, lighted on Peter, swept on, then returned.

"Mom?" he said uncertainly.

The woman's face seemed to collapse inward upon itself. She rushed to Peter and crushed him against her, then lifted him into her arms. His mother hadn't done that in a long, long time. A terrible wail burst from her throat, freezing the storm of children into a still life.

"Oh, dear Jesus," Margaret keened. "My baby, my baby, my sweet baby..."

Peter felt hot tears rolling down his cheeks. As his mother squeezed him, the little wooden train dropped from his hand onto the pebbled concrete. A toddler wandered over, picked it up, smiled, and walked away with it.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher
Brilliantly plotted...perfectly-timed terror...and a hair-raising finale. — Publishers Weekly (starred review)

The tension in palpable...superbly-crafted and clever. —The Times-London

A chilling tale...calculated to jangle the reader's every nerve...gut-wrenching. —Library Journal

A taut tale, terrifying in its intensity, compelling in its pace...A good, old-fashioned thriller, the likes of which are rare...A winner. —Chattanooga Times

Meet the Author

Greg Iles was born in 1960 in Germany. He founded the band Frankly Scarlet, plays guitar for the Rock Bottom Remainders, and is the New York Times bestselling author of nine novels, including Blood Memory and 24 Hours. He lives in Natchez, Mississippi.

Brief Biography

Natchez, Mississippi
Date of Birth:
Place of Birth:
Stuttgart, Germany
B.A., University of Mississippi, 1983

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24 Hours 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 66 reviews.
MargiefromSHS More than 1 year ago
I just recently discovered this writer and am quite excited to find him. I have now read 4 of his works and only one of them would I not recommend highly. But this is my favorite of the 4. It is intense; a "let the world take care of itself ...I have to finish this book" kind of read. I hated to put it down.
harstan More than 1 year ago
No question Joey is the best at what he does. Once a year, accompanied by his partners Huey and Cheryl, Joey kidnaps a child. He always succeeds in obtaining the ransom money, returning the child unharmed, and never having the abduction reported to the police. Clearly, Joey belongs in the felons¿ hall of fame (shame?).

This year, Joey plans to abduct Abby, the five and a half-year-old daughter of Dr. Will and Karen Jennings of Jackson, Mississippi. He has been watching the Jennings for some time to insure his plot goes smoothly and that the parents of the victim fits the mold he needs to succeed. However, this time the abduction has a twist because Will and Karen refuse to idly sit by while Joey orchestrates his dastardly deed. By taking action, has the once happy couple doomed their daughter to become Joey¿s first casualty?

24 HOURS is an exciting, frantic-paced story line that grips readers much more than Mel Gibson¿s similar movie. The plot never allows the audience a moment to breath as the tension mounts to almost unbearable levels only to rise further due to the MORTAL FEAR that the precocious Abby will die, something fans will not want to happen because they care. As usual with a Greg Iles work (see THE QUIET GAME), the key players seem genuine as if they are next door neighbors and the plot feels authentic, adding to the overall helpless terror in the pit of the sympathizing reader¿s stomach. Mr. Iles is at his nightmarish best with this abduction tale that takes no prisoners.

Harriet Klausner

Guest More than 1 year ago
Overall, I would have rated 24 Hours 3 1/2 stars if it were possible to do so in B&N's rating system. In 24 Hours Iles has delivered another book that moves along at a galloping pace and is packed with lots of suspense. Unfortunately, I found that I was able to predict most of the action and, in particular, the ending, well in advance of their occurences. Also, while the story is interesting and enjoyable to read, I found that Iles' often severely strained my ability to extend belief in his main characters. Further, while not a major criticism, I would have liked 24 Hours even more if he had provided a brief epilogue to tie up some of the loose threads in the story. Having finished 24 Hours, I have now read all five books Greg Iles has written and and I would recommend them all to you. However, if you are considering reading your first book by Iles, I'd recommend Mortal Fear and The Quiet Game above 24 Hours. If you've been an Iles fan all along, as I have, I think you'll enjoy 24 Hours but not as much as most of his previous books.
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The book was very good, suspenseful, interesting with its twists and turns of the story. I would certainly recommend the book to anyone who likes suspense or thriller novels!
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