KIDNAPPED by Paula S. Fass

KIDNAPPED

Child Abduction in America

KIRKUS REVIEW

 Fass (History/Univ. of Calif., Berkeley) focuses her grim study on the public's reaction to the horrific crime of kidnapping, from Charley Ross to Polly Klaas. The 1874 kidnapping of four-year-old Charley Ross, the first for ransom, captivated the public for years after, and Fass writes well of Charley's gradual transformation from lost child to holy innocent, celebrated in newspapers and in a bestselling book written by his father. The media frenzy that greeted Charley's disappearance--decades later, men still claimed to be the lost boy- -turned into a frightful circus that was responsible for the loss of more than one victim as kidnappers panicked in the glare of publicity. Fass also profiles Betty Jean Benedicto, a baby-snatcher who gained weight to imitate pregnancy and starved herself to mimic Hanna Marcus, the depressed mother of the child she had stolen. Benedicto was released early by a sympathetic judge--and with the best wishes of the Marcuses, who felt Benedicto treated their baby kindly. She went on to steal another infant. Male kidnappers, unsurprisingly, are dealt with more severely by the public. In 1924, Leopold and Loeb, the University of Chicago prodigies who killed 14-year-old Bobby Franks, were viewed as homosexual devils. And Richard Hauptmann, whether guilty or not of killing the Lindbergh baby in 1932, was executed for the crime. Modern kidnappings, like that of Etan Patz, are viewed as the work of a pedophile with a desire to exploit a child through pornography or prostitution. While most current kidnappings are more along the lines of a noncustodial parent stealing the child, and stranger kidnappings are still very rare, in the public's view, sexual predators lurk everywhere. Fass writes about organizations that provide ``kidnap insurance,'' and the histrionic tactics used to make parents aware of purportedly rampant pedophilia in this country. Despite its academic tone, a sad book with compelling stories. (27 b&w photos, not seen)

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1997
ISBN: 0-19-511709-3
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Oxford Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 1997




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