Read the extraordinary stories from survivors who share their experiences and their recovery, and explore historical kidnapping cases in these true crime page-turners. Curated by Tabor Millien.
The Kidnap Years by David Stout
The Great Depression was a time of desperation in America—parents struggled to feed their children and unemployment was at a record high. Adding to the lawlessness of the decade, thugs with sub-machine guns and corrupt law-enforcement officers ran rampant. But amidst this panic, there was one sure-fire way to make money, one used by criminals and resourceful civilians alike: kidnapping.
Jump into this forgotten history with Edgar Award-winning author David Stout as he explores the reports of missing people that inundated newspapers at the time. Learn the horrifying details of these abduction cases, from the methods used and the investigative processes to the personal histories of the culprits and victims. All of this culminates with the most infamous kidnapping in American history, the one that targeted an international celebrity and changed legislation forever: the Lindbergh kidnapping.
The Kidnap Years is a gritty, visceral, thoughtfully reported page-turner that chronicles the sweep of abductions that afflicted all corners of the country as desperate people were pushed to do the unthinkable.
The Real Lolita by Sarah Weinman
Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita is one of the most beloved and notorious novels of all time. And yet, very few of its readers know that the subject of the novel was inspired by a real-life case: the 1948 abduction of eleven-year-old Sally Horner.
Weaving together suspenseful crime narrative, cultural and social history, and literary investigation, The Real Lolita tells Sally Horner’s full story for the very first time. Drawing upon extensive investigations, legal documents, public records, and interviews with remaining relatives, Sarah Weinman uncovers how much Nabokov knew of the Sally Horner case and the efforts he took to disguise that knowledge during the process of writing and publishing Lolita.
Sally Horner’s story echoes the stories of countless girls and women who never had the chance to speak for themselves. By diving deeper in the publication history of Lolita and restoring Sally to her rightful place in the lore of the novel’s creation, The Real Lolita casts a new light on the dark inspiration for a modern classic.
We Is Got Him by Carrie Hagen
In 1874, a little boy named Charley Ross was snatched from his family’s front yard in Philadelphia. A ransom note arrived three days later, demanding twenty thousand dollars for the boy’s return. The city was about to host the America’s Centennial celebration, and the mass panic surrounding the Charley Ross case plunged the nation into hysteria.
The desperate search led the police to inspect every building in Philadelphia, set up saloon surveillance in New York’s notorious slums, and begin a national manhunt. With white-knuckle suspense and historical detail, Hagen vividly captures the dark side of an earlier America. Her brilliant portrayal of its criminals, detectives, politicians, spiritualists, and ordinary families will stay with the reader long after the final page.
Dancing with the Octopus by Debora Harding
One Omaha winter day in November 1978, when Debora Harding was just fourteen, she was abducted at knife point from a church parking lot. She was thrown into a van, assaulted, held for ransom, and then left to die as an ice storm descended over the city. Debora survived. She identified her attacker to the police and then returned to her teenage life in a dysfunctional home where she was expected to simply move on. Denial became the family coping strategy offered by her fun-loving, conflicted father and her cruelly resentful mother. It wasn’t until decades later – when beset by the symptoms of PTSD- that Debora undertook a radical project: she met her childhood attacker face-to-face in prison and began to reconsider and reimagine his complex story. This was a quest for the truth that would threaten the lie at the heart of her family and with it the sacred bond that once saved her.
Dexterously shifting between the past and present, Debora Harding untangles the incident of her kidnapping and escape from unexpected angles, offering a vivid, intimate portrait of one family’s disintegration in the 1970s Midwest, a rusted landscape where the loss of white male power can flare into unspeakable violence. Written with dark humor and the pacing of a thriller, Dancing with the Octopus is a literary tour de force and a groundbreaking narrative of reckoning, recovery, and the inexhaustible strength it takes to survive.
A Stolen Life by Jaycee Dugard
book on CD
When Jaycee Dugard was eleven years old, she was abducted from a school bus stop within sight of her home in South Lake Tahoe, California. She was missing for more than eighteen years, held captive by Phillip Craig and Nancy Garrido, and gave birth to two daughters during her imprisonment. On August 26, 2009, Garrido showed up for a meeting with his parole officer; he brought Jaycee, her daughters, and his wife Nancy with him. Their unusual behavior raised suspicions and an investigation revealed the tent behind the Garridos’ home where Jaycee had been living for nearly two decades.
A Stolen Life was written by Jaycee herself and covers the period from the time of her abduction in 1991 up until the present. In her stark, compelling narrative, she opens up about what she experienced–and offers an extraordinary account of courage and resilience.
My Story by Elizabeth Smart
On June 5, 2002, fourteen-year-old Elizabeth Smart, the daughter of a close-knit Mormon family, was taken from her home in the middle of the night by religious fanatic, Brian David Mitchell and his wife, Wanda Barzee. Now for the first time, she tells of the constant fear she endured every hour, her courageous determination to maintain hope, and how she devised a plan to manipulate her captors and convinced them to return to Utah, where she was rescued minutes after arriving. Smart explains how her faith helped her stay sane in the midst of a nightmare and how she found the strength to confront her captors at their trial and see that justice was served. In the nine years after her rescue, Smart transformed from victim to advocate, traveling the country and working to educate, inspire and foster change. She has created a foundation to help prevent crimes against children and is a frequent public speaker.
Finding Me by Michelle Knight
book on CD
Michelle was a young single mother when she was kidnapped by a local school bus driver named Ariel Castro. For more than a decade afterward, she endured unimaginable torture at the hand of her abductor. In 2003 Amanda Berry joined her in captivity, followed by Gina DeJesus in 2004. Their escape on May 6, 2013, made headlines around the world. Barely out of her own tumultuous childhood, Michelle was estranged from her family and fighting for custody of her young son when she disappeared. Local police believed she had run away, so they removed her from the missing persons lists fifteen months after she vanished. Castro tormented her with these facts, reminding her that no one was looking for her, that the outside world had forgotten her. But Michelle would not be broken.
In Finding Me, Michelle will reveal the heartbreaking details of her story, including the thoughts and prayers that helped her find courage to endure her unimaginable circumstances and now build a life worth living. By sharing both her past and her efforts to create a future, Michelle becomes a voice for the voiceless and a powerful symbol of hope for the thousands of children and young adults who go missing every year.
*All summaries courtesy of the publisher unless otherwise noted.