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My Life at the Heart of the Hostage Trade

by Ben Lopez

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 2012
ISBN: 978-1-61608-862-0
Publisher: Skyhorse Publishing

A dissatisfied psychologist abandons the therapist’s couch for the high-pressure world of hostage negotiations.

Lopez (not his real name) recounts his fascinating journey from inchoate postdoctoral candidate to international man of mystery and intrigue with all the sinewy grit you’d expect to find in a big-budget Hollywood movie. The heroes of this kinetic tell-all are predictably rough-and-tumble, while the villains are suitably vile. But that’s where the familiarity ends. As the author demonstrates, the real world of kidnap and ransom—or K&R as it’s known in the industry—isn’t about busting down doors with high-powered semi-automatics at the ready in the hopes of freeing a hostage. It’s actually a much subtler and nuanced discipline where the ability to understand the inner workings of a kidnapper’s mind is the greatest weapon of all. The taut narrative marches through some of Lopez’s toughest cases, starting out in Mexico City where affluent businessmen are often the targets of thugs hoping for a big payday. From there, the saga eventually lands in Kandahar, where a very different kind of kidnapper—militants with a political agenda—has been preying on hapless Westerners since the United States first invaded Afghanistan years ago. Suspense fuels each exotic locale, and even when no one is shot, the outcomes are explosive. Much of that is due to the absorbing interplay between complex bad guys and the crackerjack psychoanalyst manipulating them. No one escapes psychological scrutiny—including Lopez himself. In addition to lifting the curtain on the intricate world of K&R, the author also sheds light on his remarkable life and how his ongoing efforts to restore other people’s interrupted lives have cost him personally.

Thrilling and illuminating.