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Odds On by Michael Crichton
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Odds On was Chrichton's first published novel in 1966 and it does a good job of reflecting the spirit of the times. One of the amusing parts of this novel that, in retrospect seems silly, is the author's use of Critical Path Analysis and computers to plot the hotel robbery. Back then, however, not everyone had a computer on their desktop and computers had a more James Bondian aspect to them.

The Costa Brava is the northeastern coast of Spain stretching north from Barcelona to the French border. A large number of tourist hotels were built on this coast in resorts such as Blanes, Tossa de Mar, and Lloret de Mar. Zero Cool also took place in this region.

The beginning of the book is a little confusing to the reader as the author switches back and forth between a number of different characters, including three conspirators, Jencks, Miguel, and Bryan, a mismatched sort of engaged sort of not couple, and an elderly woman with a shofar en route from Tangiers. Eventually, the three conspirators and the other interesting folks all meet at a large hotel, the Hotel Reina, on a small island connected to the mainland by a single bridge. Based on his computer program, Jencks figures out the odds of success of robbing the hotel, their escape, and the fencing of the loot.

Most of the books is focused on the conspirators meeting at the hotel and planning their escapade. Their plan is not just to rob the hotel safe, but to also rob the guests and to have a decent chance of success at that, they must mingle and get to know the other guests and who is worth robbing. There are, of course, some who they get to know better than others and some of their mingling is very risqué. The sexual liaisons between the various conspirators and the bikini clad
( or often unclad) women they meet around the pool, in the bar, or at the reception desk are set forth in detail.

There are colorful characters in the hotel, including the elderly woman who travels to Spain in a shofared Lincoln Continental with a brick of marijuana in her brassiere, her nymphotic niece whose dalliances with so many are causing the hotel manager to worry about the hotel's reputation, and the mismatched girlfriend who keeps stringing along the boy she brought with her while displaying her charms for all who care to notice. The book flows quite well and, even though there is quite a long build up until the actual action, nothing about the hotel or its inhabitants or the goings on there are dull.

( )
  DaveWilde | Sep 22, 2017 |
Sprawling set-piece thriller, in the John D MacDonald or Arthur Hailey style. ( )
  bensdad00 | Jan 10, 2017 |
Of the six John Lange books I've read, this and Scratch One appear to be the best of the lot. Scratch One has more a thrilling/action-adventure feel to it, while this book here, Odds On, has more of a Mystery/Crime caper feel to it. Oddly, I think this one and Scratch One might actually be Crichton's first two books published (not necessarily first two written, but first two published). Odd in that you do not normally expect the first two books by an author to be the best (at least under a specific name, in this case John Lange).

This book involves a complicated robbery of a luxury hotel in Spain. The mastermind has run many scenarios through an advanced supercomputer to make sure of it. Something like 85% chance of success. When most crimes seem closer to 50%. The second of the three team group is a James Bond type. The third . . .. I'm not sure I've seen his specific type before. The third is a self described half-Mexican (I don't recall if he mentioned the other half) who is fabulous at smuggling. Bold as brass. The kind who would put dynamite in gift wrapping paper, put it onto his car seat, toss a coat causally over the whole package, then calmly drive across a country border. As he did near the opening of this book.

I admit that I got confused by the cover and misread the book description. I thought the heist was going to be done by three women. Not three men. Though four women have rather large roles in the book (some larger than others). A book from 1966 with three women running a crime caper? Sounded intriguing. What I got instead was good enough to get me over my confusion and disappointment.

Crichton seems to include more eroticism in his books when writing as Lange, though this is the first time that it seemed rather graphic and explicit. I might be remembering the other Lange books I've read by him incorrectly, in terms of eroticism. Possibly. Odds On was actually one where it combined fade to black/misdirection with explicit description. Depending on the scene. And you could not always tell which it would be. As in, things would be advancing and then . . . explicitness or "wow, that was a fun couple of hours, huh?" *next scene begins immediately after that*.

Hmms. Other than the nonfictions, I only have two books by Crichton left to read. Both under the Lange name - The Venom Business and Drug of Choice. And that second one, Drug of Choice, is one I started and stopped on the same day a year and a month ago. After having read 25% of it. It'll be harder, now, to read that one, I suppose. ( )
  Lexxi | Jul 28, 2015 |
Yet another early Crichton noir originally published under a pseudonym. As usual, there's a decent concept at the core (guy uses a computer to plan a heist at a Spanish resort), but Crichton doesn't quite have the chops to pull it off. This one feels particularly dated in its treatment of women. I'm a little surprised no one has looked to turn these into movies. ( )
  wjohnston | Apr 18, 2014 |
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Three seasoned women criminals plot to rob the Reina, a luxury hotel off the coast of Spain, but they must keep their own agendas in check in order to succeed.

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