Jonathan Holt’s The Abduction: The Rules Of War (Book Review)

Finishing a novel about a kidnapping, I found it disturbing to see the news stories play out about President Obama’s involvement in the trade of an American P.O.W. for Taliban prisoners, and the potential for Gitmo’s closing. A novel that may entertain, this is one of those books that will leave you questioning bigger issues that police investigations, more substantially than a Dan Brown fantasy. This is fiction than may just cause you to think.

A British advertising executive, Jonathan Holt delivers the second in his Carnivia TrilogyThe Abduction, a thriller with political implications that impact the whole world. Here, a young woman is kidnapped and subjected to CIA protocol interrogation/torture methods, shown over the internet to everyone in Italy, as part of a protest over the construction of a new American Army base. Holt’s characters, the U.S. Army’s Holly Boland and Carabinieri captain Kat Tapo, lead the investigation, but the ramifications of their investigation threaten the security of various political figures and military excursions.

Unfortunately, the characters that Holt uses to tell his story aren’t as interesting as the sum of their parts. We care about the kidnapped teenager, Mia, but we’re drowned with different players within the Catholic Church, the Italian government, the United States Army, the local Italian Carbinieri. We aren’t sure who exactly we should care about. But we care about the process, the freeing of Mia and the reasons behind the strange CIA-related messages and exploration.

All of that comes to a head quite sufficiently, even as we’ve wrapped the story and see that it has become a real-life topic again. But we don’t get enough of the Carnivia. We don’t see enough of these people to know what they’re really dealing with. It plays then like a movie script that we would expect to be fleshed out by the acting. For that, it suffers some aspects of writing there, but the political questions kept me involved.

What comes out is a question about “treating others as you want to be treated” or loving your neighbor as yourself. Is it okay to treat certain people, known terrorists or expected terrorists, with the brutal methods of the CIA? Would it be okay to treat a potential murder that way (a la Prisoners)? Who gets to decide who is treated that way or not? Or is it unacceptable to treat anyone that way, because it’s not okay (and very creepy) to treat a sixteen-year-old girl that way? Those are serious questions that Holt leaves us with, and challenges us to consider, long after our reading is done and the book has been put aside.

That’s the mark of a solid novel.


About Jacob Sahms

I'm searching for hope in the midst of the storms, raising a family, pastoring a church, writing on faith and film, rooting for the Red Sox, and sleeping occasionally. Find me at,, and the brand new
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