QC Alumni Literary Event – Toronto – Dave Rohee’s Book: “Kidnapped” – July 14, 2019

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  • guyaneseonline  On July 7, 2019 at 12:21 pm

    Kidnapped: A Living Nightmare – By Dave Rohee

    Review by Lynette Spence

    “May you live in interesting times” is widely attributed as an ancient Chinese curse. Dave Rohee, a retired airline pilot and aviation consultant, unable to speak the language, is in China literally minding his own business. His life is about to swiftly shift into interesting territory. On a quiet Sunday afternoon he finds himself trapped, stunned, pinned and jammed with a bag over his head in the back seat of a car speeding towards destination unknown. So begins this harrowing tale that sets in motion multiple intersections of special operations forces with familiar acronyms – RCMP, INTERPOL, CSP – using their powerful intelligence skills to find the perpetrators and bring Dave to safety without injury.

    The metaphor of culture as an iceberg has proved to be helpful in describing how only a small portion of culture is visible above the surface while its most significant aspects, such as beliefs, codes, customs and behaviours, lie deep and unseen below the waterline.

    Dave comes up against this concept during his business start-up and, to a greater degree, during his extraordinary abduction and week-long confinement in a dingy, dirty, desolate apartment in a multiplex somewhere south of Beijing in 2001. Ransom kidnappings are on the rise worldwide but this was the first for a Canadian in China. His spouse, Teresita Li, a senior flight attendant for Air Canada, had warned him of the many obstacles involved with a foreigner trying to gain access to the Chinese business community.

    Kidnapped : A Living Nightmare fulfills a promise that the author made to himself and to his therapist on completion of a successful series of treatments for post-traumatic stress disorder following his release from captivity. It also conveys the essential elements of a cautionary tale as Dave is forced to retreat from China empty handed after four years of hard work.

    Three narrators relate the story – Dave, Teresita and Olivia, Dave’s Office Manager. They describe in minute detail every moment of the week’s events in a day by day format from their specific physical locations and perspectives.

    A gang of five – four men and a woman – carry out the criminal act. Right at the outset we learn from Dave the reason for the kidnapping. Albert, a discontented local, is one of the ringleaders. He is seeking revenge following his rejection as a potential partner in Dave’s budding business. Three of the others, name checked as The Major, Baby Face and Ugly Man and later aptly dubbed the VID gang (Victims of the Incredibly Dumb), supervise the kidnapping location. The details and routines of the captivity are terrifying but somehow we are not terrified for the victim perhaps due to the kidnappers living up to their latest title and/or because we know the eventual outcome. The criminal investigation and trial bring harsh punishment and few surprises.

    Teresita receives news of the kidnapping during a layover in Shanghai. There is no way that her wealthy brother, who is adamantly unsupportive of her relationship with Dave, will provide the ransom money. She is then granted temporary leave from her job and returns home to Coquitlam, British Columbia. Her voice opens up a window into the universe of Canadian diplomacy and Chinese and international law enforcement that enables us to witness the inner workings of interagency cooperation.

    Olivia’s perspective brings into view certain interesting Chinese cultural practices and official regulations that may be unfamiliar to foreigners, for example, unmarried women under the age of 28 are not allowed to travel outside China without government approval and a travel permit.

    The brief chapters and fast-paced opening sequences quickly draw us into the story. The interchanging voices and perspectives of the narrators add the necessary movement, depth and texture. For those readers seeking only a non-stop spine chilling mystery thriller or a deep dive into Chinese gang tactics and psychology, there is something more satisfying here – the emotional temperature of the book. There is pleasure and interest to be found there so the writing shines most brightly when the characters share their deepest feelings and reactions. For this reader the book’s highlights come from those moments of sensibility and vulnerability when each narrator reflects on their past and present interactions and relationships with each other, with their families and with their colleagues as they move on to create a more hopeful future. This is how the living nightmare comes to an end and a new dream begins.

    Olivia’s perspective brings into view certain interesting Chinese cultural practices and official regulations that may be unfamiliar to foreigners, for example, unmarried women under the age of 28 are not allowed to travel outside China without government approval and a travel permit.

    The brief chapters and fast-paced opening sequences quickly draw us into the story. The interchanging voices and perspectives of the narrators add the necessary movement, depth and texture. For those readers seeking only a non-stop spine chilling mystery thriller or a deep dive into Chinese gang tactics and psychology, there is something more satisfying here – the emotional temperature of the book. There is pleasure and interest to be found there so the writing shines most brightly when the characters share their deepest feelings and reactions. For this reader the book’s highlights come from those moments of sensibility and vulnerability when each narrator reflects on their past and present interactions and relationships with each other, with their families and with their colleagues as they move on to create a more hopeful future. This is how the living nightmare comes to an end and a new dream begins.

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