“Philo Vance: Man of Action,” said nobody never. And yet Kidnap shows real signs of Van Dine’s responding both to the changing times—friends, it’s not the Jazz Age any more—and to the public’s changing tastes, as Philo does much less sitting around pontificating and much more running around chasing bad guys. To accommodate this new, Action Philo, the plot is somewhat simplistic, featuring not only a purloined playboy but also a demand that the ransom be left at midnight in a hollow tree. However, Philo’s newfound skills with a pistol are additions to his bag of tricks, rather than replacements for the tricks we know and love; rest assured that he retains every ounce of his customary implausible charm.
Kidnap is the last of the Philo Vance novels to have been written as a book, with a film to follow (the remaining two were written after the movies were made). Given the ability that Van Dine shows here to adapt his style—and his protagonist’s—as the times dictate, it’s a great pity that we never got a chance to see Philo go up against the Nazis.
“Vance now reveals himself as a gun-fighter… [but] he is the same Philo, distinguished for his keen observation of details…and for his adroit questioning of witnesses and suspects.” —New York Times
Who's likely to like this: Fans of the Golden Age of Detective Fiction