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Catch Me: Kill Me by William H. Hallahan

Catch Me: Kill Me (1977)

by William H. Hallahan

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I see why it won awards
Set in the 1970s, and a Russian poet has sought asylum in the U.S. Days before he qualifies for citizenship, he is kidnapped from Grand Central Station. Why was he taken? How can they help him? Where is he?
The story diverges on two tracks -- a black-bag CIA operative comes in from the cold just enough to maintain full deniability while he looks for the man and an FBI manager keeps poking and prodding trying to find out why. Neither one knows the other exists, and the two stories remain fully compartmentalized.
The opening is extremely descriptive, almost one-step removed from the action, and it takes awhile until you are fully engaged in the two tracks.
I received no compensation, not even a free copy, in exchange for this review. I am not personal friends with the author, nor do I follow him on social media. ( )
  polywogg | Apr 16, 2016 |
A recent contributor to the DorothyL mystery discussion list, differentiating among mysteries, thrillers and suspense, said that thrillers are focused on "how." That made a lot of sense to me in the context of many of the late-70s Edgar winners I've been reading lately. [book:CATCH ME: KILL ME] begins with the kidnapping of a Russian poet (who has defected to the US) in Grand Central Station. As several agencies meet to discuss the event, it becomes evident that the kidnappers all have diplomatic immunity and there is no "legal" way to retrieve the poet. The twist in this thriller is that there are two agents working the case. One, Brewer, is actually an ex-agent who hopes to win his position back by rescuing the Russian poet -- but HOW? The other, Leary, battles interagency rivalries and stonewalling witnesses to find out WHY the poet (who had lived peacefully in America for 3 years or so) was kidnapped in the first place.

[book: CATCH ME: KILL ME] is very much a post-Watergate book, and a book set largely in New York City in the aftermath of the famous Daily News headline, "FORD TO CITY: DROP DEAD." There are even echoes of the (much earlier) Kitty Genovese case in scenes where passers-by ignore people being beaten in front of them. The New York of book: CATCH ME: KILL ME] is bankrupt both economically and morally, an extremely depressing place.

This, indeed, was the major fault I found with the book. It could have been a good deal shorter without some of the interminable descriptions of Brewer's pool-playing neighbor, which added rather too much atmosphere without advancing the plot. Some of the characters Leary encounters talk a bit too much as well. In other words, the book took too long to get to the "thrilling" parts.

Both [book:CATCH ME: KILL ME] and book:HOPSCOTCH] dealt with forcibly retired CIA agents and their distasteful former supervisors. But if Miles Kendig and Myerson in [book: HOPSCOTCH] were the stuff of comedy, Brewer and the odious Geller in Hallahan's book came awfully close to tragedy, and in fact, it's perfectly possible that after the book's last page, there may well be a tragic outcome for at least one character. Although I had to struggle to finish this book, I do find myself thinking about it several days later, and I think too that it caught the prevailing mood of its time, which got its author the Edgar Award for Best Novel.
( )
  auntieknickers | Apr 3, 2013 |
Despite being published in 1978, Catch Me: Kill Me still felt relevant. The book is about the abduction of and search for a Russian national in the U.S. Boris Kotlikoff is a Russian poet who has defected to the United States thus renouncing his Russian citizenship. The added element of Kotlikoff being Jewish made for an interesting story as the novel addressed the desire of Jews to escape Soviet Russia. Just a few days before he is eligible to become a citizen, Kotlikoff is kidnapped by a group of Russians from Grand Central Station. The U.S. government has no idea why and can do nothing about it. Kotlikoff doesn't enjoy the protections of any nation. He is a man without a country. The reader is immediately yanked into the action by the abduction scene that opens the book.

Catch Me: Kill Me is organized into sections, which bounce back and forth between a U.S. government attorney and a former CIA agent who is recruited to try and save Kotlikoff rogue-style. Leary, the lawyer, is determined to find out why Kotlikoff was taken and Brewer, the CIA agent, is hell-bent on finding him in order to regain his own status within the government.

Hallahan uses the snappy dialogue one would expect of the era. Though the treatment of women is somewhat pig-headed, it doesn't hurt the story. There really aren't any female characters that play a large enough role for it to grate on your nerves. I was also struck by some of the poetic turns of phrase that matched the poet identity of Kotlikoff. The novel is well structured, and I felt rewarded in the end. Everything comes together in a pretty amazing way.

I thoroughly enjoyed Catch Me: Kill Me, my first read for the Edgar Awards Reading Challenge. I would definitely recommend it not only to those participating in the challenge but others as well. ( )
  iubookgirl | Jan 14, 2011 |
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