the-manhattan-hunt-clubJohn Saul
Ballantine
2001

Jeff Converse is a young, promising college student living in New York. Aside from a promising future as an architect, he has plans involving marrying his girlfriend after school. All his aspirations, however, are dashed the night he saved a young lady from an assault from a homeless man in the tunnels of New York’s subway system, and is falsely accused of the assault himself. Now, he’s convicted of that crime, and is being sent to jail for what seems to be the rest of his life. The thing is, someone has different plans for Jeff- his girlfriend’s father, who happens to be a member of a secret club that, among other things, hunts people for sport. Now, Jeff suddenly finds himself in a bad rip-off of The Most Dangerous Game, beneath the streets of Manhattan, in a hidden world of twisting tunnels and forgotten subterranean chambers. Can Jeff survive the hunters, the invisible population of homeless, desperate insane people, and the C. H. U. D.’s to escape back to the surface? Unfortunately, yes…

Okay, so I made up that “C. H. U. D.” part. Chalk it up to trying to make this thing more interesting than it is. Really, outside of the obvious umpteenth-hundred take on the staple The Most Dangerous Game (sometimes I wish that thing wasn’t written…but then, someone would have sooner or later…it was inevitable), there are some elements of conspiracy mystery, suspense and an empathic characterization of the homeless that populate the underground tunnels of New York City that makes this book a bit better. It could have been just a blah read, but there are some good points. There’s the character of Jagger, the convicted murderer that’s chosen along with Jeff to be part of the hunted. Let’s just say, Jagger creeps me out. Big time. And the homeless characters have more depth to them than the usual stereotype of the crazy homeless type. But, what it really boils down to is the hunt…which doesn’t really happen until the last fifty pages or so. Up to then, it’s just a bunch of old guys sitting around talking about doing the hunt and swilling high-priced hooch in their clubhouse. Meanwhile, we’re treated to Jeff’s father and girlfriend trying to both prove that Jeff’s alive and he’s innocent. But, in the end, everything’s right with the world, blah blah blah…and aside from the lesson learned here (never, ever date anyone who’s father is a member of an elite secret club that could hunt you in the future), The Manhattan Hunt Club is typical John Saul fare…good for a leisurely read and cheep thrills, but nothing really earth shattering…

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