Odds On by Michael Crichton

(8.0/10)

The plan: to rob the Reina, a super-luxury hotel off the coast of Spain. The crew: three seasoned criminals with the skills to pull off the heist of the century. The edge: every aspect of the scheme has been simulated in a computer, down to the last variable. The complication: three beautiful women with agendas of their own and the sort of variables no computer can fathom.

Originally printed in 1966 Odds On is a crime caper complete with gorgeous women and shady men. Deftly weaving character introductions who initially do not seem to have any connection with each other as they make their way to the luxurious secluded Hotel Reina, home away from home for the rich and idle.

As the book is set at the time it was written we have clearly defined masculine and feminine roles and an out-dated form of sexism runs throughout the novel. It felt like watching an old Bond movie from the sixties.

This novel is not fantasy in the same sense as most of the books that are reviewed on this website, but it does take you away from the everyday, following the lead characters to the hotel and the events that follow, as well as the misdirection between what is and isn’t important. Each character is well written and gets given a full profile and back story. Of course as a crime novel we have to wait to find out what happens next but you are left wanting to know rather than rushing to the end.

The main characters, Steve Jencks, Bryan Stack and Miguel, are planning to rob the Hotel Reina by way of a fairly complicated heist. We are given a vague outline of this scenario with more details being given as the book progresses. This is a fun novel as we are not reading it from the perspective of a police officer trying to piece what happened together but from the perspective of a select bunch of men looking for a good pay day.

This book is set in a time of transition between the old world and the new world. Jencks, being the brains of the operation, runs his plan through a computer simulation to work out the chances of the heist’s success, taking into account various variables which could affect this, hence the title of the book, Odds On. As this is the sixties this “computer” is not one that most of us would recognise as it is more like the ultimate processor, where you would have to input the code yourself onto a card so that the computer could process the information.

The main part of the book is set in the Hotel Reina, which is in itself a world apart. Even the staff do not live in the main hotel and have to use a bridge to cross and get to work. We get to meet a lot of the people staying at the hotel, as well as the staff, as our trio of anti-heroes start to put their plan in motion.

This is a very well written crime novel. Although I had never read any books by Michael Crichton before I was aware that the film Jurassic Park and the TV show ER were created by him. I can say that I am looking forward to reading more of his novels in the Hard Case Crime Series.

Odds On by Michael Crichton writing as John Lange
Paperback: 288 pages
Titan Books; Reprint edition 19 Nov 2013

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