HOSTAGES TO FORTUNE: A Study of Kidnapping in the World Today by Caroline Moorehead

HOSTAGES TO FORTUNE: A Study of Kidnapping in the World Today

Email this review


Moorehead, a London Times columnist with a special knowledge of Italian affairs, presents a broad, superficial analysis of kidnapping over the centuries. We start back in the Mediterranean in 78 B.C. where Julius Caesar was taken for ransom by pirates; learn that Spanish Moslems were the first to make an actual business of negotiating with kidnappers; and in the 20th century, take in famous abductions (like the Lindbergh case) and the Nazi kidnapping of Slavic children deemed fit to join the Master Race. Then Moorehead zeroes in on criminal and political kidnaps in Europe and the Americas between 1970 and 1977--offering no revelations, however, on the Baader-Meinhof gang, the Red Brigades, Argentina's People's Revolutionary Army (ERP), or the Tupamaros of Uruguay. Writing best about Italy, she notes that, there, the long tradition of trading captives for cash has turned kidnapping into a regular profession; kidnappers like everyone else want to take their summer vacations by the sea. So hostage-taking in Italy is a seasonal affair, with terrorists working in March, April, and September, while ordinary hoods do their business in the winter. But hostage-takers everywhere increasingly shun money and instead seek to obtain the release of political prisoners or to win recognition for their cause. On this score, Moorehead's book seems redundant, encroaching as it does on the familiar terrain of terrorism in general. She does note, interestingly, that victims of political kidnappings often come back with stories of intense mental suffering, but little real physical harm; usually they find their captors polite, well-educated, and young--the kind ready to debate the morality of multinational corporations or foreign intelligence agencies. And, she speculates, the ultimate kidnap caper isn't far off: some terrorist group may someday steal a quantity of nuclear material and hold the world for ransom. Criminal-history buffs may get some jollies along the long, long trail from Julius Caesar; those concerned with political abductions have superior sources to choose from.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1980
Publisher: Atheneum