Skip to main content

The Big Bundle


The Big Bundle

Robert Greenlease is one of the richest men around the Kansas City area for miles and miles. In fact, he is one of the wealthiest in the entire Midwest. So a ransom amount of $600,000 for his 11-year-old son, Bobby, shouldn’t seem all that crazy. But it’s 1953, so that is actually a fortune. But Greenlease doesn’t care about the money; he just wants his son back.

That’s where Nathan Heller of Chicago’s A-1 Detective Agency comes in. Heller has gained himself a bit of a reputation. After all, he was instrumental in solving the Lindbergh case, which keeps coming back to haunt him. He has quite a name to live up to. To be honest, he doesn’t even try to discourage people from believing that he gets things done with no regard as to how. Heller has been on both sides of the law, so he knows how the world works. And he has a mind for these tangled-up cases. But the Greenlease case is a tricky one.

"THE BIG BUNDLE is a story about a rough-and-tumble case...with Heller at the helm, getting the ladies and getting beat up. It doesn’t get much more fun --- and cringeworthy --- than this."

The FBI, naturally, takes the lead role in the kidnapping. That’s fine with Heller --- but only until things start to go sideways. What happens when agents botch their cases? It’s not pretty, and Heller understands all too well how a small misstep can lead to a big fatal fall. When the expected call comes in with instructions on where and how to deliver the ransom, there’s a nasty fumble on the deal. For some reason, the kidnappers fail to locate the money. And the next attempt doesn’t go a lot better. Are these people toying with Greenlease?

The fuzzy voice on the phone leads Heller to conclude that the caller is drunk. He has a really bad feeling about this case. He himself has a son, which makes it sort of personal. Snatching a kid is out-of-bounds bad to him. In fact, while trying to solve the case, everyone he interviews says the same thing. The dough has blood on it; no one wants to touch money stolen off of a child abduction.
Half of the ransom is recovered, but what happened to the other $300,000? Of course, the FBI marked it so it won’t be easy to spend --- or launder. There’s no shortage of suspects. This is a time when crooked cops weren’t so rare. And the mob was having its heyday. Could it be that maybe Jimmy Hoffa had a hand in it? There might be more than one reason Bobby Kennedy was hard at work investigating the union boss, trying to get enough dirt on him to take him down. Even Kennedy has enlisted Heller’s help.

Heller, though, knows Hoffa, the extent of his reach and when to tiptoe lightly. There are rules out on the streets, and Heller is the first to play by them. He talks to Hoffa like he talks to anyone who might have a connection. Even the dames. He enjoys talking to the dames a lot more than the guys. But the question remains: Where is Bobby Greenlease?
Nathan Heller is a classic PI working in an era that had lots of crime, no cell phones, a fondness for kidnapping and violence, and women hanging all over the tough guys. Max Allan Collins’ THE BIG BUNDLE is a story about a rough-and-tumble case that wraps all of that together, with Heller at the helm, getting the ladies and getting beat up. It doesn’t get much more fun --- and cringeworthy --- than this.

Reviewed by Kate Ayers on February 3, 2023

The Big Bundle
by Max Allan Collins