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4 Stars

so say the waitersHow’s this for an idea? There’s a new app making its way out of the hipster scene. Called KidnApp, it lets you arrange your own kidnapping. Just for fun, of course. You get to decide how long you’ll be gone and what – if anything- will be done to you.  Looks like there’s some potential for things to go wrong, eh? You’d be right about that!

So Say the Waiters is the first installment in a series focused on the people using and making the app. It’s weird, wonderful, and au courant, with a grimy window into the life of Baltimore hipsters.

Dani is a tattooed bartender who was one of the first users of the app. She’s still one of their best “customers.” In the “kidnapping” we get to experience with her, she has a guy play the viola for her for several hours, while she’s tied up and blind-folded. Hmph.  I have to confess I was relieved that while kinkier kidnappings were hinted at, they never materialized in any graphic way.

Henry is Dani’s opposite in every conceivable way as a boring, white-collar, government programmer with a suburban McMansion. It seems he’s got it made, except his fiancee has just left him and he’s a sobbing mess about it. Also, he can’t afford his McMansion mortgage without her.

One weekend, Henry gets whisked off to California to visit a college friend, who’s just made it big developing KidnApp. The reason he’s making so much money is that most people simply sign up for it, pay the five dollar monthly subscription fee, and never “submit” to be kidnapped. The thrill of the idea that they could do it is enough. The app is interactive and social-media friendly. You can see if there are any “waiters” in your area, and if their profile is public, can even see who they are.

Dani for instance, has a huge following on the app, because she leaves public reviews of each of her kidnapping experiences. Checking to see who’s waiting, and who just got picked up, who’s left comments about your latest kidnapping, becomes quite addictive.

“Takers” are the people doing the kidnapping. They tend to be ex-military types, but there are a few exceptions, like a black lesbian couple operating out of a Baltimore basement.

Henry’s friend wants to bring him on board, into management. The money’s good, but Henry is hesitant. He’s a cautious type, and if he does this, he’ll have to work as a taker for a while, just to get the feel of things on the ground.  After returning to Baltimore, he reluctantly agrees, and someone is sent from CA to get him started. Let’s just say Henry is terrible at this, and his friend has to call someone to bail him out of a tricky situation.

Henry is reluctant to try again, but he’s also fascinated. When Dani puts in another submission, he’s the taker assigned to her. While he’s scoping out her apartment, she gets kidnapped- by someone not part of the app. It turns out to be a guy who has a crush on her who knew she’d put in a submission and thought he’d get in on the fun. Henry gets involved, and when Dani learns about his situation she suggests a partnership. She could use the money, and she’d be good at it.

Of course, they have to keep it all secret, but it’s a way for Henry to get a second income while keeping his nice, safe day job. They agree, and the book ends with their first assignment- a well-known investigative journalist. That should go well.

I really enjoyed this. The characters weren’t astonishingly original, but they fit the story well, each providing a window into very different parts of Baltimore. I particularly liked Dani’s explorations of the seedier sides of the city on her bicycle. I’ve seen some of those, and while it’s not always pretty, you can’t deny that Baltimore has character!

The story was fast-paced and stayed interesting. I felt off-balance much of the time; like I couldn’t predict where this was going. The ending was a bit anti-climactic. I guess it’s just setting up for the next book, which I’ll probably read at some point.j

The app was the star in all of this. It seems kind of crazy, but also kind of feasible in this day and age. The marriage of technology and people who are sick to death of their mundane lives seems pretty plausible.

Grab a copy while it’s still free on Amazon!