A King's Ransom

A King's Ransom

4.2 22
by James Grippando

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Special Feature: This PerfectBound e-book contains: An interview with the author describing the extraordinary lengths he went to in researching this finely-detailed, action-packed book.

The scientific charge of The Hot Zone and the epic thrill of Jurassic Park converge in Minutes to Burn-an exhilarating new eco-thriller about a team of scientists and Navy

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Special Feature: This PerfectBound e-book contains: An interview with the author describing the extraordinary lengths he went to in researching this finely-detailed, action-packed book.

The scientific charge of The Hot Zone and the epic thrill of Jurassic Park converge in Minutes to Burn-an exhilarating new eco-thriller about a team of scientists and Navy SEALs stranded on an island in the Gal�pagos and fighting to survive an evolutionary catastrophe.

The year is 2007. Through widening holes of ozone depletion, the tropical sun burns human skin to a crisp. Powerful earthquakes and monstrous hurricanes wrack South America, exploding Ecuador's already anarchic instability.

Cameron Kates, a hard-hitting Navy SEAL hiding the secret of her early pregnancy, gets pulled begrudgingly into a mission with her husband, Justin. Along with a ragtag squad of soldiers, ordered on the babysitting mission against their will, she must escort Dr. Rex Williams, a renowned ecotectonicist, to the chaotic continent. Rex is forced to brave the extreme and unprecedented dangers of such an expedition for one reason alone-so he can position critical seismic equipment on Sangre de Dios, a desolate and depopulated island in Gal�pagos. Others have recently vanished from the island without a trace.

Cameron's platoonmates-a crackpot demolition expert, a chief who wears her brawn over her considerable intelligence, an unhinged lieutenant recovering from a personal tragedy-are an erratic but expert crew. Yet ultimately it is the newcomer, William Savage, a brooding Vietnam vet with raging warrior instincts, from whom Cameron must learn when the straightforward mission escalates into abattle for survival.

In the forest of the island awaits a scientific phenomenon the likes of which man has never witnessed. As the stunned scientists and soldiers furiously unravel the threads of the ecological mystery they've encountered, they discover that they're trapped within a lethal, predatory battle where only the fittest survive. And the fate of the world is hanging in the balance.

A riveting and spine-tingling thriller, Minutes to Burn takes you on a terrifying, unforgettable expedition through an ecological disaster in the not too distant future. This of-the-moment story of daring and terror in Darwin's backyard is one of today's most compelling and unrelenting reads.

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Editorial Reviews

Robert Crais
Part Michael Crichton techno-thriller, part James Cameron monster movie, and all Gregg Andrew Hurwitz page-turner, Minutes to Burn is a great good time of a read! The science is fascinating, the story is exciting, and the plot moves with the unstoppable precision of a SEAL team mounting an assault. Buy this book and bring it to the beach...but read it in the shade.
James Thayer
Hurwitz's crew in Minutes to Burn are the hardest, orneriest, funniest soldiers since The Dirty Dozen. The novel has a breakneck drive, chilling realism, and graveyard tension. Hang on to your hat.
Richard Marcinko
Gregg Andrew Hurwitz captures the warrior spirit of the past and takes us to a future where science unleashes discoveries that society has yet to comprehend. This "new breed" of SEALs overcome their personal vulernabilities to do what has always been and will always be paramount...Complete The Mission!
Jan Burke
Get ready to stay up all night—Gregg Andrew Hurwitz is about to take you on a rollercoaster ride to a fierce and unforgiving near future. Action-adventure and thriller fans, take note—if you want to read someone who writes with the intelligence of Crichton, the military tech know-how of Clancy, and the spine-tingling intensity of Koontz, allow me to introduce you to Gregg Andrew Hurwitz—you're going to love Minutes to Burn.
Barbara Parker
Will kidnap your imagination from the first heart-pounding scene. —National bestselling author of Suspicion of Betrayal
Orlando Sentinel
Races along.
At the top of the thriller genre.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Attorney-turned-novelist Grippando's (Under Cover of Darkness; Found Money) sixth effort kicks off when Matthew Rey, a Florida fisherman with a partnership in a Nicaraguan seafood operation, is kidnapped while on business in Colombia by a group of Marxist guerrillas led by a sadistic soldier named Joaqu n. Matthew is dragged off to the mountains and his son, Nick, a young Florida lawyer, receives a ransom demand and tries to get his father back through official channels. Bad move: it turns out Matthew and his partner, Guillermo Cruz, are under suspicion of running drugs. Nick also learns that Matthew had kidnap-and-ransom insurance for the precise amount demanded by Joaqu n. To make matters worse, the insurance provider is a client of Nick's law firm, and refuses to pay the claim, accusing Nick and Matthew of conspiracy and fraud. Nick is legally outmaneuvered by his boss scheming senior partner Duncan Fitz and booted out of the firm. Broke, desperate and under suspicion of several felonies, he receives help from beautiful kidnapping negotiator Alex Cabrera and his ex-fianc e, Jenna, who's also a lawyer. Naturally, he finds himself torn between his lost love and his growing affection for the mysterious Alex. Meanwhile, Matthew is a helpless witness to scenes of gang rape, torture and murder perpetrated by Joaqu n and his thugs. Outflanked and running out of time, Nick delves into his father's business dealings and slowly uncovers a massive conspiracy. Grippando's experience as a trial lawyer shows in his depiction of Nick's frantic legal moves to clear his family's name; his extensive research into the kidnapping industry currently thriving in Latin America adds a harrowing dose of realism to a taut, well-constructed page-turner that seems destined for the big screen. Agents, Richard and Artie Pine. National advertising; six-city author tour. (May 14) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Lawyer Nick Rey's father is kidnapped while on a business trip to Colombia. No one wants to cooperate in freeing him: not the State Department, not the FBI, not the insurance company from which he purchased kidnap and ransom insurance. Nick is on his own except for the help of beautiful Alex, a professional negotiator. It's an interesting, timely, and well-constructed plot. Unfortunately, the characters are flat: Nick and his family are good and innocent to the point of being irritating, while the villains are a completely brutal and evil bunch. Narrator John B. Lloyd is also irritating, particularly his heavy accent when portraying Hispanic characters. A marginal purchase for most libraries. Christine Valentine, Davenport Univ., Kalamazoo, MI Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Navy SEALs go to the Galapagos to battle anything that moves in a rousing actioner reminiscent of Jurassic Park, The Dirty Dozen, Lord of the Flies, and maybe even Beowulf. In the year 2007, hurricanes and earthquakes are making life miserable throughout the Western Hemisphere. Two scientists are dispatched to Sangre de Dios in the Galapagos Islands to mount instruments that will help track the canes and quakes. But they can't do it alone. Enter a half-dozen SEALs, half-soiled if not actually dirty, to assist and protect the scientists, then see them home safely once the mission is completed. And what an infelicitous mix of trained SEALs it is, ranging from the brave, admirable, pregnant Cameron Kates to the wild, woolly, and aptly named William Savage. At the outset, the SEALs regard this mission as a cakewalk, almost not worth getting their game-faces on for. Soon enough, however, they learn that Nature is never to be underrated. First, a hellish aftershock maroons them. Next, they discover that a new strain of ecological virus, a baby bubonic plague as it were, is running rampant on Sangre de Dios. Unsettling stuff, clearly, but nothing compared to that band of mantids: monstrous, man-eating, nine-foot-tall insects produced by a series of unfortunate biological mutations. Pressure builds, the SEALs snarl at each other, and a mini-mutiny breaks out, while the murderously intelligent mantids stalk and make terrible inroads among them. Cameron, however, keeps on keeping on, bravely and admirably ignoring her physical limitations and eventually triumphing the way all right-thinking readers will want her to. Vivid cast, engrossing story. Hurwitz (The Tower, 1999) demonstrates onceagain that he's a thriller writer to be reckoned with.

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Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
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4.18(w) x 6.75(h) x 1.16(d)

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Chapter One

Some called it a crown jewel. Others said it was a diamond in the rough, with the emphasis on rough. It was a matter of perspective, whether Cartagena stood apart from the violence that besieged Colombia or was shrinking in its shadow.

It was one of the Caribbean's most striking port cities, a special blend of colonial heritage, natural beauty, and salsa into the wee hours. The top attraction was the old town, a city within the city, surrounded by nearly six miles of impressive fortress walls that were built under four centuries of Spanish reign. There were smaller marvels too, like cazuela de mariscos, a local seafood soup with chunks of cassava instead of potatoes -- deliciosa! The crowded beaches on the Bocagrande peninsula weren't spectacular, but white sand and turquoise seas were close enough at Playa Blanca or, even better, Islas del Rosario. Throughout the city, colonial mansions painted in pastels and electric blue stood as reminders that the overall feeling here was decidedly tropical, in no small part Afro-Caribbean. Glorified by countless artists and writers over the centuries, Cartagena continued to evoke romantic sentiments as a unique place that, despite the influx of luxury condos, managed to retain the feel of Old San Juan and Havana in its heyday. It was, after all, the official "sister city" to beautiful Coral Gables, Florida.

Yet behind the exotic intrigue, beyond the hopeful hype of tourist agents, lurked an element of danger that was a fact of life in modern-day Colombia. Especially for an American.

Matthew Rey had visited Colombia before and was aware of the tragic headlines.Eleven sport fishermen kidnapped on their boat off Barranquilla. Busloads of children commandeered on their way to school in Oca�a, north of Bogot�. More than a hundred churchgoers taken at gunpoint in the middle of a Catholic mass in Cali. As a businessman, Matthew didn't deny the risks of a country besieged by four decades of civil war. As a fisherman, he savored the natural beauty, albeit from a half mile offshore.

Matthew was in the commercial fishing business, which was big business indeed. He'd started his company in Miami with a rusted but trusted old lobster boat and a mountain of debt. Twenty years later he was part owner of Rey's Seafood Company with forty boats and two processing plants in Nicaragua. With the United States importing more than eighteen million pounds of edible fish weekly from Central and South America, he was always looking for new equipment, opportunities for expansion.

It was that kind of thinking that had brought him to Colombia.

"Hector!" he shouted.

He got no reply. He tried again, louder. "Hector!"

Hector D�az was one of six Nicaraguan crewmen that Matthew had brought to Cartagena to overhaul three old shrimp boats and bring them back to the Mosquito Coast. They were the Ni�a, the Pinta, and the Coco Loco. It was just a hunch, but something told Matthew they weren't originally a set. All three were anchored side by side in the bay like a pontoon bridge, close enough together for the workers to step from one to the next. A noisy generator on the Pinta, the middle boat, powered the working lights and welding tools for all three, making it impossible for Matthew to be heard from one boat to the next.

He switched off the generator. The lights went out, the noise stopped. It was just past sunset, but the afterglow afforded just enough natural light for the men to see each other.

"You done fixing the head yet?" asked Matthew.

Hector had been working on the plumbing all afternoon. "All but the marble tile and Kohler bidet, boss."

He was a habitual wisecracker but worth the trouble, as he and his son Liv�n could be trusted to sail just about anything from Punto A to Punto B, even three old shrimp boats. Hector was half Miskito Indian, and in Matthew's book the Miskitos were the greatest fishermen on earth. For centuries their tribe had fished the Caribbean along Nicaragua's Mosquito Coast. Tall and lean, the Miskitos were natural divers, and in his prime Hector had been a top lobster diver. His skills were legendary, like the story of the time he and Matthew got lost in a blinding storm at sea. Hector promptly jumped off the boat and dived down thirty-five feet for a good look around the reef. In a matter of minutes he popped back up and told Matthew to turn the boat around and hold the course steady for about three hours. They sailed into port two hours and forty-five minutes later. Only then did Matthew fully appreciate the way the Miskitos knew their ocean -- top and bottom -- like their own backyard.

Matthew smiled and shouted back, joking, "You're worthless, you know that?"

"That's why I work for you, boss."

Matthew snarled, but it was just a game they played. In truth, he envied Hector. Fishing had been a long tradition in the D�az family, passed on from father to son for generations of Miskitos. Matthew had a son too, but not the same bond that Hector and Liv�n shared.

The sun was gone, the orange and purple afterglow fading. All along the rim of the bay, city lights emerged as twilight turned to darkness. Cartagena was coming to life. The parties would soon begin in earnest. The first time Matthew had visited the city, he'd ended up playing the accordion in some bar that boasted authentic vallenato music of the local coste�o people. He couldn't vouch for the music, but the one-fifty rum had delivered as promised. That was twenty years ago. Cartagena had changed much since then. He'd changed, too. Coke instead of beer and rum, and his bladder wasn't what it used to be. Just one stinking soda and already he had to break the proverbial pee seal.

A King's Ransom . Copyright � by James Grippando. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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