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    THE MANHATTAN HUNT CLUB by John Saul

    Ballantine Books, August 2001

    Deep under the streets of Manhattan lie hundreds of miles of tunnels. Some are modern, containing sewers, subways, and water mains. Others represent an archeological treasure of the city's past. In all of them live the houseless and criminals. Now a group of New York City leaders has decided to rid the city of its worst criminals--those that the courts have failed on. The MANHATTAN HUNT CLUB is born.

    Jeff Converse is mistakenly identified as the mugger and rapist who destroyed a young woman at a Manhattan subway stop. When his judge gives him a one year sentence, the Hunt Club knows what to do. Jeff finds himself buried deep beneath Manhattan. The Hunt Club uses the homeless of New York as beaters, helping contain him and Jagger, the criminal set up as the second target for the hunt.

    The police and penitentiary system believe that Jeff is dead but his father and girlfriend refuse to believe and follow the hints that lead them into the tunnels. Yet what can even they do against the well-armed Club--even if they can find Jeff in the maze under the streets.

    THE MANHATTAN HUNT CLUB is a wonderful concept. Both the idea of vigilante justice correcting the mistakes of a liberal court, and the urban jungle of tunnels are instant grabbers. Author John Saul's smooth writing keeps the story moving along, dragging the reader through the sewers with his hero.

    Although THE MANHATTAN HUNT CLUB is entertaining reading, it relies too heavily on its 'high concept' and does not really develop its characters. Other than simply staying alive, Jeff has no particular motive, no particular reason for the reader to cheer him on beyond the circumstance of him being an innocent victim. Saul also relies on huge coincidences to move his characters in the right direction. What are the odds that Jeff's father happens to run into the 15-year-old runaway who happened to spend the night in the same room as Jeff?

    THE MANHATTAN HUNT CLUB is enjoyable, but I found myself disappointed that Saul didn't go the extra distance to give the novel the powerful impact it deserves for tackling such a promise-filled plot.

    Two Stars

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