The best books involving kidnapping

Why am I passionate about this?

One of the joys of writing a mystery series is you have time to explore your characters—who they are, where they come from, what motivates them. In this particular series, I’d established a rift between the protagonist and her family, and I began to wonder why it was there. My own sister died when still a baby, yet her absence cast a long, complicated shadow over our family for decades. I wanted to explore more about the family dynamics around a missing child—and kidnapping seemed the best tool to get there. So I read everything I could about kidnapping to present that absence in both intimate and compelling ways.


I wrote...

Dead in the Water

By Jeannette de Beauvoir,

Book cover of Dead in the Water

What is my book about?

Sydney Riley's parents are visiting, expecting her to play tour guide. Wealthy adventurer Guy Husband has mysteriously reappeared in Provincetown, seeking help regaining the affections of Sydney’s best friend, Mirela. And the body of a kidnapped businessman has washed up under MacMillan Wharf, setting off memories of a painful part of Sydney’s past.

Sydney is literally at sea (not her favorite place), juggling friends and family to inform her supersized curiosity. Is the businessman’s murder the work of a regional gang led by the infamous "Codfather," or the result of a feud within an influential Provincetown family? Is there something darker behind Guy’s return to town? And why is Sydney's boyfriend suddenly interested in her long-ago sister’s disappearance—especially while her mother is in town?

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Vanishing Acts

Jeannette de Beauvoir Why did I love this book?

I love this book because it asks more questions than it answers.

Picoult’s approach is always about allowing the reader to enter deeply into what her characters are experiencing, and she handles the issue of kidnapping with the same grace and sensitivity she’s used in approaching other difficult and occasionally taboo subjects.

As Delia plans her wedding, she is plagued by flashbacks of a life she can't recall. What happens when you find out you aren’t who you thought you were? How do you make sense of the people you love and trust morphing into something more sinister? How can you reach for what you’ve always wanted when it means losing something else?

You’ll think about all this—and more—for a long time after you’ve closed the book.

By Jodi Picoult,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Vanishing Acts as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

THE INTERNATIONAL BESTSELLER
'She is the master of her craft . . . and humanity is what Picoult does best' Sunday Telegraph

Andrew Hopkins lovingly raised his daughter Delia on his own, allowing her to believe that they lost Delia's mother in a car accident twenty-seven years ago.

But as Delia is preparing herself for the next chapter in her life, a policeman knocks on the door and reveals a terrible secret: that Andrew kidnapped his four-year-old daughter and led Delia's mother to believe she was dead.

As he sits behind bars, there is no doubt in anyone's mind that…


Book cover of The Couple Next Door

Jeannette de Beauvoir Why did I love this book?

This is a rollercoaster ride of a thriller, with a whole lot of moments that will get your pulse racing (I actually, at one point, was stumbling around my house, unable to put the book down as I tried to do other things!).

Like Picoult, Lapena uncovers questions that no one truly wants answered. What are your most basic values? How do you live them? How well do you know the people you love, the people you see every day? Do we all keep secrets? What are yours? (And, first of all, who goes to a dinner party next door, leaving a baby unattended?)

Lapena stumbles occasionally—her characters aren’t as well-drawn as they could have been, and her ending is delivered with more confusion than necessary—but I still recommend the book.

By Shari Lapena,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked The Couple Next Door as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

Another thrilling domestic suspense novel from the New York Times bestselling author of Not a Happy Family

"The twists come as fast [as] you can turn the pages." -People

"I read this novel at one sitting, absolutely riveted by the storyline. The suspense was beautifully rendered and unrelenting!" -Sue Grafton

It all started at a dinner party. . .

A domestic suspense debut about a young couple and their apparently friendly neighbors-a twisty, rollercoaster ride of lies, betrayal, and the secrets between husbands and wives. . .

Anne and Marco Conti seem to have it…


Book cover of The Butterfly Garden

Jeannette de Beauvoir Why did I love this book?

This book is both absolutely gorgeous and deeply disturbing.

The premise is simple: in an FBI interview, a young woman recounts the horrific ordeal she’s survived as a member of a serial killer’s “garden” of kidnapped victims. The reading experience is considerably more complex. Much of the story is told in flashbacks, allowing the reader to explore Maya’s experience in the Garden; that’s then balanced with her FBI interview, filling in blanks and establishing her as an almost-reliable narrator.

The dual timeline—one of my favorite devices to read and write—is handled brilliantly, and Hutchinson successfully achieves a formidable tightrope act, balancing the brutality of torture and murder with an elegant and refined narrative.

Her darkness is graceful—but it’s still darkness. 

By Dot Hutchison,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Butterfly Garden as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An Amazon Charts bestseller.

Near an isolated mansion lies a beautiful garden.

In this garden grow luscious flowers, shady trees...and a collection of precious "butterflies"-young women who have been kidnapped and intricately tattooed to resemble their namesakes. Overseeing it all is the Gardener, a brutal, twisted man obsessed with capturing and preserving his lovely specimens.

When the garden is discovered, a survivor is brought in for questioning. FBI agents Victor Hanoverian and Brandon Eddison are tasked with piecing together one of the most stomach-churning cases of their careers. But the girl, known only as Maya, proves to be a puzzle…


Book cover of A Stolen Life: A Memoir

Jeannette de Beauvoir Why did I love this book?

This memoir is both haunting and oddly inspirational.


On 10 June 1991, eleven-year-old Jaycee Dugard was abducted from a school bus stop within sight of her home in Tahoe, California. It was the last her family saw of her for over eighteen years. In 2009 an investigation discovered her living in a tent behind her kidnapper’s house.

I love this memoir for a whole lot of reasons, but in large part because there’s not a trace of self-pity in her account—despite her having had so much of her life “stolen” from her—and because of her determination to find faith in humanity again.

By Jaycee Dugard,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Stolen Life as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A raw and powerful memoir of Jaycee Lee Dugard's own story of being kidnapped as an 11-year-old and held captive for over 18 years

On 10 June 1991, eleven-year-old Jaycee Dugard was abducted from a school bus stop within sight of her home in Tahoe, California.

It was the last her family and friends saw of her for over eighteen years.

On 26 August 2009, Dugard, her daughters, and Phillip Craig Garrido appeared in the office of her kidnapper's parole officer in California. Their unusual behaviour sparked an investigation that led to the positive identification of Jaycee Lee Dugard, living…


Book cover of The Face on the Milk Carton

Jeannette de Beauvoir Why did I love this book?

I don’t often read YA novels, so I’m grateful to the friend who insisted I read this one.

Imagine picking up a milk carton imprinted with images of missing children—and seeing your own face there. This story is written with a kind of hectic immediacy through the eyes of 15-year-old Janie Johnson, who now must find out who she really is. Confronted, her parents share what they believe to be her story: she is really their grandchild, the child of their long-missing daughter who disappeared into a cult.

 As it turns out, even the story within the story offers another distortion. (The only caveat I’ll add is that this book is a little dated, clearly written before #metoo, and the reader may experience some slight discomfort in that area.)

There is now a series of novels about this protagonist.  

By Caroline B. Cooney,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Face on the Milk Carton as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 12, 13, 14, and 15.

What is this book about?

In the vein of psychological thrillers like We Were Liars and One of Us Is Lying, bestselling and Edgar Award nominated author Caroline Cooney’s JANIE series seamlessly blends mystery and suspense with issues of family, friendship and love to offer an emotionally evocative thrill ride of a read.

No one ever really paid close attention to the faces of the missing children on the milk cartons. But as Janie Johnson glanced at the face of the ordinary little girl with her hair in tight pigtails, wearing a dress with a narrow white collar—a three-year-old who had been kidnapped twelve years…


You might also like...

Thorn City

By Pamela Statz,

Book cover of Thorn City

Pamela Statz

New book alert!

What is my book about?

Dressed to kill and ready to make rent, best friends Lisa and Jamie work as “paid to party” girls at the Rose City Ripe for Disruption gala, a gathering of Portland's elite.

Their evening is derailed when Lisa stumbles across Ellen, a ruthless politician and Lisa’s estranged mother. And to make matters worse, Lisa’s boyfriend, Patrick, crashes the party to meet his new boss, Portland's food cart drug kingpin. Lisa makes a fateful choice that traps her, Jamie, and Patrick in Ellen’s web. In this gripping thriller, Lisa must reconcile a painful past and perilous present.

Thorn City

By Pamela Statz,

What is this book about?

Suspected murder, eclectic food trucks, and artisanal cocaine: just another day in Thorn City.

It’s the night of the Rose City Ripe for Disruption gala—a gathering of Portland’s elite. Dressed to kill in sparkling minidresses, best friends Lisa and Jamie attend as “paid to party” girls. They plan an evening of fake flirtations, karaoke playlists, and of course, grazing the catering.

Past and present collide when Lisa stumbles across Ellen, a ruthless politician who also happens to be Lisa’s estranged mother. Awkward . . . When Lisa was sixteen, Ellen had her kidnapped and taken to the Lost Lake Academy—a…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in kidnapping, family secrets, and butterflies?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about kidnapping, family secrets, and butterflies.

Kidnapping Explore 111 books about kidnapping
Family Secrets Explore 180 books about family secrets
Butterflies Explore 38 books about butterflies