THE BIRTHDAY PARTY by Stanley N. Alpert
Kirkus Star


A Memoir of Survival
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A federal attorney gets kidnapped off a Manhattan street.

Stanley Alpert was a Jewish kid from Brooklyn who braved the mean streets of New York and went on to become an Assistant U.S. Attorney mostly prosecuting environmental cases. On a cold night in January 1998, the day before his 38th birthday, he was kidnapped near his Manhattan apartment by a trio of armed hoods who targeted him because he looked like he had money. The book is Alpert’s sober recollection of what followed, neatly cleaved into halves labeled “Mouse” and “Cat.” His kidnappers were three youths: a pair of gun-toting thugs who went by Ren and Sen, and their leader, a self-impressed type named Lucky. Blindfolded, Alpert was driven out of Manhattan and deposited at an apartment that he believed to be in Brooklyn. As the obviously amateurish kidnappers debated how to get money out of “Stan” (they were interested in emptying his bank account), he amassed details about the location and biographical information about the men and their teen prostitutes. Alpert kept his cool, impressively sustaining a mix of authority and deference until he was finally let go on the edge of Prospect Park with a $20 bill for his troubles. The “Cat” half of the book, in which Alpert is reunited with his worried friends as a brigade of feds and cops mobilize with lightning speed to catch the crooks (using information he provided), is less thrilling than the first. If Alpert presents the facts dryly, what’s appealing is that he does not oversell his bravado. He knows in the end that, as skillfully as he manipulated his captors (they were eventually caught and prosecuted), he was lucky to survive; most kidnappings end with a corpse. This is practically a textbook outlining how to behave in a similar situation.

Stark and honest.

Pub Date: Jan. 18th, 2007
ISBN: 0-399-15402-7
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Putnam
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1st, 2006