RANSOM by Ann Hagedorn Auerbach


The Untold Story of International Kidnapping
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With the growth, since the end of the Cold War, of international travel by business executives, eager ecotourists, and just plain tourists, there has been a serious increase in the miserable trade of kidnaping crimes committed for political reasons or simply for cash. Former Wall Street Journal reporter Auerbach (Wild Ride, 1994) has drawn on interviews with victims and their families, government officials, professional hostage negotiators as well as public and private records (including negotiation transcripts) to produce a wide-ranging study of the modern traffic in stolen lives. Thousands of kidnapings, most unreported, take place every year on virtually every continent. Certainly the nasty business dates from antediluvian times, but Auerbach concentrates largely on events that took place during a two-year span, starting with the taking of a few trekkers in the mountains of Kashmir on July 4, 1995. The brutal execution of one young captive is a heart-wrenching story. The rescue efforts of the wife of another are sympathetically detailed. All the tales read like thrillers. The known etiology and treatment of this scourge is clinically examined. Make concessions or not? Seek publicity or work quietly? Take counsel from authorities or hire private specialists? Negotiate a ransom (as families and employers generally do) or refuse on principle (as governments profess to do)? The use of kidnap and ransom insurance and the operations of specialized crisis-management firms run by former FBI and CIA spooks is reviewed. Some of the information regarding techniques and form of ransom could even be of interest to the bad guys. In one case, “the FBI was quite aware that the $18.5 million ransom request translated to 600 pounds. It wasn’t exactly easy to throw a 600-pound bag from an overpass.” While the story of those trekkers captured in Kashmir was not concluded when Auerbach ended her book, the facts and the stories she presents make for first-rate reportage.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-8050-4078-1
Page count: 496pp
Publisher: Henry Holt
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 1998