Originally written under the pseudonym John Lange way back in 1966, this is Crichton’s first ever published novel. When I first started the Michael Crichton Experience and found out that he had written a bunch of mystery novels under this name I thought I was never going to get my hands on most of them. They were going for several hundred dollars on Abebooks and Amazon at that point and I wasn’t willing to part with that kind of cash. But thanks to a re-release of all of them, by Hard Case Crime in the last few years, I was able to snag them up for a couple of bucks, adding Odds On and several others to the MCE.
This novel is all about a heist. It sort of reminded me of the recent Star Wars: Scoundrels that I read but instead of being set in space with Han, Chewbacca, and Lando. Odds On is set along the coast of Spain at the fancy Hotel Reina. Three dastardly handsome thieving men are planning to rob the place blind, and they have a secret trick up their sleeve. The leader of their operation, Jencks, is using computer models to determine the course of action that has the highest probability for success. Using their fancy new-fangled computer the would be thieves are able to plan for every contingency they can possible think of. Well almost every contingency.
I love that even in his first novel ever published Crichton is able to utilize technology as a crucial part of the plot. Computers were not something that were very ordinary back when this book was set and I try to imagine what it would have been like reading this when it had been originally published, but it is so hard to do with computers inhabiting every part of our modern day life. I carry a computer around that can access the vast stores of human knowledge, known as the magical internets, in my damn pocket now. So it’s hard to fathom just how ahead of his time Crichton was with this line of thinking. He knew that computers were going to be a huge part of our life even in his first ever published novel.
This book just screams typical Crichton writing. It is set over a several day period, as he is apt to do with his novels, and his writing style and characters are very reminiscent of his later works. There were several fairly graphic sex scenes though, which I don’t recall ever reading in a Crichton book before, at least not in this much detail and some casual drug use. Overall once I got into the book it was hard to put down and it had a fairly decent twist at the end that I wasn’t expecting. It made me excited to read more Lange novels that I didn’t even know existed a few years ago. I’m about to finish my 9th book of 2015 tonight and I’m considering picking up another Lange crime novel to read next but I haven’t quite decided. We shall see, until then if you like Crichton are up for a fun mystery/heist read I definitely recommend Odds On.