The Asking Price

John Buxton Hilton

09 August 2012
168 pages


Kenworthy in retirement is consulted by a special team operating from the Cabinet Office. They need his second opinion on the random kidnapping of a motley collection of customers from a village shop in Bedfordshire. The ransom price is so bizarre that it is kept secret from the public – and on their return the villagers seem none the worse for their experience. But a rougher time is had by all when an entire Norfolk Parish Council is spirited away. Not until they try their hand at abducting a Yorkshire branch of the Women’s Institute do the kidnappers meet their match.

In the meantime, Kenworthy has been sorting out the red herrings and finds the answer in the cut-throat power politics of organized crime. The action moves rapidly – and murderously – from the North Country to the Fens, from rural Wiltshire to the hinterland of the Costa del Sol.

From a series of memorable vignettes there emerges a sardonic picture of England in the 1980s – and of the devious ways in which decisions are sometimes reached in high places. A small-time London thief who does not like mice; his anarchistic daughter, on the brink of a doctorate in criminology; a corrupt tycoon who tires of Monopoly in an Open Prison; two intelligent young policemen struggling to interpret a tachometer log – this is John Buxton Hilton operating in a new vein.