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From Florida To Detroit, Does Love Win?
on May 25, 2004
Starting in a Florida prison, the opening few chapters of OUT OF SIGHT are set as a frenetic pace as bank robber extraordinaire, Jack Foley plans and executes a daring escape. Helping him in his bid for freedom is his former partner in crime, Buddy who is waiting with a car in the prison car park. Also waiting in the car park happens to be US Marshall Karen Sisco who is sitting in her car, preparing to enter the facility when Foley makes his unexpected appearance. Quickly overpowering her, they stuff her in the trunk of her car with Foley climbing in behind her and Buddy slipping behind the wheel to affect the getaway.
Unbelievably cool in the crisis involved in the jail break, Foley attempts to engage Karen in conversation, even wondering aloud whether it might be possible, if circumstances were different, for the two of them to become attracted to one another. Karen of course is incredulous and wants nothing to do with the escaped prisoner, apart from capturing him and delivering him back to prison. Thinking on the events later, after escaping from Buddy and Foley, she does find herself impressed with Foley's cool head under pressure.
There is a brief lull in the action as we recover from the excitement of the opening scenes and the thought of the next score is placed in Foley's head. This takes the form of a robbery target in Detroit, supposedly a low-risk venture made easier by some local help. After narrowly escaping capture from the US Marshalls that includes another run-in with Karen Sisco, he decides that it's time for a change of scenery and he and Buddy heads north.
By this time, it becomes obvious that there's some sort of weird fascination between Jack Foley and Karen Sisco taking place. They're somehow drawn to one another, even though they are on directly opposite sides of the law.
In Detroit, Foley and Buddy are out of their comfort zones. They don't know the city, they don't know the people and it's just started to snow. They hook up with a truly dangerous fellow ex-con named Maurice. He is their aforementioned local help, but they realise that the low-risk operation is shaping up as anything but. With nothing better on offer and against their better judgement, they go ahead with the plan but are extremely wary.
Meanwhile Karen Sisco has tracked Foley to Detroit after some very slick detective work, and after talking her way onto the Foley case. The inevitability of their meeting is obvious. What remains up in the air is what will happen after they meet and when it comes to plots created by Elmore Leonard, this means that the story could lead anywhere from here.
On the surface this is told in a light, breezy tone thanks mainly to the cool behaviour of Foley in times of crisis backed up by Buddy's comical acceptance of Foley's decisions, no matter how unusual they seemed. When the setting changed to the colder wintry city of Detroit, the tone darkened considerably to reflect the dangerous Maurice, with whom they have to deal. You get a definite sense that the significant scenes are going to take place in Detroit thanks to these strong mood changes.
Elmore Leonard mixes an easy conversational tone with tight, tough dialogue. He manages to give each of his characters their own distinctive voice thanks to his clever use of phraseology. Even though Foley and Buddy are ex-cons, in this book they can be considered the good guys and their language reflects this through a minimum of swearing and slang. In glaring comparison, we find that the Detroit "bad guys" such as Maurice, although also ex-cons, litter their dialogue with constant and extreme profanities. It's a simple but effective way to differentiate the difference between bad and downright evil.
Ultimately, OUT OF SIGHT is a love story. Sure it's an unusual love story in the extreme, but a love story just the same. With plenty of action taking place on the periphery of the Foley and Sisco mating dance, it's an absorbing book that provided me with an unexpected ending.