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BNH Book Review: "Kidnap: Inside the Ransom Business"

Published Friday Aug 28, 2020

Author Terri Schlichenmeyer of The Bookworm Sez LLC

"Kidnap: Inside the Ransom Business"
by Anja Shortland
University Press          
$24.95/249 pages

In the movies, it always happens fast: Someone is snatched, and the abductor calls within minutes to ask for millions of dollars in ransom. But no surprise: Kidnapping, says author Anja Shortland, is nothing like what is portrayed in pop culture. Based on what she knows as a World Bank adviser and Somali piracy expert, she shows that, in most cases, kidnapping takes deep planning.

Kidnappers often work under a main organization that considers logistics, and monitors who is being snatched and who’s paying not to be snatched. This serves to keep the situation in check and discourage “rule breaking” and rogues.

As for the kidnapped employee, they may not be informed about the steps their business has taken on their behalf. Risk managers who specialize in danger assessment may have been hired, and consultants may be involved. Almost certainly, if there’s an insurance policy, Shortland says that it’s likely to have been underwritten by Lloyds of London, and the employee won’t be told about it. If the worst happens, professional negotiators may be hired, but that could be a moot point if everybody’s already agreed on the ransom fee. Of course things could go awry, especially if there are bodyguards involved, but that’s a whole different chapter.

The good news is that the vast majority of “insured people working, travelling, and living in kidnap-prone areas” are not, statistically, in much danger. Over the past four decades, just over 2,000 people have reportedly been kidnapped. That’s a low number—unless one of them is you.

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