First published 1978; cover shown is the 1981 Keyhole Crime (UK) paperback edition.
Hugh Devore returns home early from Tokyo to find his wife Madeline missing. Unsure whether she is simply staying with friends, he tells himself he'll wait until morning before starting to panic. At 4:30am the phone rings. His 18-year-old son, Rob, has kidnapped his mother and wants $250,000 before he'll release her unharmed.
Rob isn't acting alone: his latest girlfriend, a wholly independent and completely bored teenager named Mouse thought up the plan. Rob, who was told to get a job or get out of the house by his father after he had dropped out of Princeton, needs money fast. It seems like the perfect crime, which should quietly and safely be over in a matter of days. Rob and Mouse will then assume new identities and lives, financed by Hugh.
But amateurish plans rarely run smoothly. Hugh contacts a friend who has close associations with the CIA. The police and FBI are called in. Jane, Rob's 12-year-old sister, remembers a conversation between Mouse and Rob when they thought they were alone in the house. Madeline is determined to escape. And Al Madonna, Mouse's sometime lover and small time Mafia thug, decides he wants a cut of the quarter of a million ransom money.
Rob is starting to realise what a colossal mistake he has made. He now has to outsmart Mouse who is becoming more dominating and aggressive as the days pass, and disarm Al, who has been seen by Madeline and wants no living witnesses. Al is a vicious and fast worker, and it's a race against time for Hugh and Jane to uncover the clues and discover for themselves just where Madeline is being held.