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Retro Reading: The Mall by Steve Kahn

Updated on November 7, 2014
Cover of The Mall by Steve Kahn
Cover of The Mall by Steve Kahn

One of the key words in the 1980’s was drama. Another was big. Combine the two together and that’s what most television, movies and novels had in common. The bigger the better.

Trying to live up to the hype was The Mall by Steve Kahn. From the outside it looked like a pretty good read but on the inside, well, it has its moments.Published in 1983, The Mall follows a group of people on Super Sale Saturday at Green Meadows mall. It’s a fairly new shopping excursion for the 40,000 people that have travelled on this ill fated day to spend their hard earned dollars. What they don’t know is they’ll be held hostage in the early afternoon.

It’s also the mall owner’s birthday and his wife has a surprise birthday luncheon at the lavish restaurant At the Top on the mall’s second level. Many of Mel Goodman’s friends are there including one enemy. What Mel doesn’t know is that one of his tenants from “the building” he owns has a special surprise for him. To Mel, his tenant, Jeffrey (Robinson) Prince is about to take control of Green Meadows with an asking price of $11,000,000. Either Goodman pays up or the shoppers will face an untimely end.

The premise is good and what I had hoped to be a great thriller turns out to be a mish mash of feelings. Again, I was lured into the cover art and the prospect of a page turning read.True, in the opening of the book, it is indeed page turning. The chapters are short which make it all the more interesting. Once a chapter concludes you really do want more so you’re inclined to read more. There are quite a few characters but surprisingly, you’re not overwhelmed with them.

Kahn does a great job of keeping them separate from the anticipated action and not really bogging the reader down with a lot of backstory. I’m not sure at what point the novel starts to lose steam. Everything is setting up to the takeover by Prince, but it just never seems to get there.

There are six others who aid Prince in the takeover, but these characters really aren’t developed. They may have a short chapter written about them and later they don’t come across as “bad assed” as they are originally intended. After the takeover there’s nothing left. We’ve been reading about this for a couple of hundred pages and then it happens. There really isn’t a payoff for the reader.

Had there been more tension and suspense then this would have been a great book. Again, it just doesn’t deliver.However, the most fun I had while reading it was remembering back to the early ‘80’s. This, in itself is a great time capsule and I began to remember my days at “the mall” (which also is used constantly on every single page. We know what the characters are talking about!).

I’d skip the mall and maybe go to a strip mall instead. I’m pretty sure there’s not as much drama there, or if there is, it might be less dramatic.

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