The best books about kidnapping

12 authors have picked their favorite books about kidnapping and why they recommend each book.

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Artemis Fowl

By Eoin Colfer,

Book cover of Artemis Fowl

Eoin Colfer is a master of science fantasy mixing fairy magic and high technology in a seamless drama. Like Jawan in my book, Holly Short gets in trouble by disobeying a direct order—to stand by and wait for the boss to figure out what to do while disaster spreads unmolested. I just jumped right into that very human situation where the rank and file are out in the field agonizing over whether or not to obey the orders of armchair superiors micromanaging a situation without being there.   

Who am I?

I was talking to some scientifically minded people online when I came across quantum physics. When I read that there’s something scientists call the Quantum Realm, I knew I had to write a book. I took the information a German scientist who specialized in quantum theory gave me and created a science fantasy world. I have a masters in English and a bachelor's in communication. Two of the most important questions a fiction author can ask are What if? and Why not? Instead of having a regular guy fall into a magic world, I had the magician’s apprentice fall into a world of science just to see what he’d do. 

I wrote...

Queen of the Quantum Realm: Book One of the Nanosia Series

By Rhonda Denise Johnson,

Book cover of Queen of the Quantum Realm: Book One of the Nanosia Series

What is my book about?

In this YA fantasy novel, Jawan, apprentice of the powerful earth mage, finds himself trapped in a world one-billionth his normal size where subatomic beings hail him as the hero who comes to save them. Jawan knows he doesn’t belong in this world and longs to go home, but he must stop Antipan whose machinations threaten both worlds.

Devil's Embrace (Devil's Duology)

By Catherine Coulter,

Book cover of Devil's Embrace (Devil's Duology)

Superbly written, heart-stopping, action-filled. It’s the story of highborn 18-year-old Cassie Brougham, who on the day before her marriage to a viscount she has loved for years, is abducted by 34-year-old Anthony Wells, the Earl of Clare, who has been watching her since she was a child all the while believing she is his perfect mate. 

Though Anthony’s intention is marriage, that doesn’t stop him from rape to claim her, nor imprisonment, first on his yacht and then in his Italian villa, as he tries to persuade her to marry him. The plot is intricate and intriguing with lots of action and lots of mystery. The characters are richly drawn, including the hero who has a noble side notwithstanding his selfish and brutal act of taking another man’s bride.

Who am I?

I am an author of romantic historical fiction and a book reviewer of more than 1,000 books. I also have a blog: Historical Romance Review. I love deep historicals—both my own and those written by others--that bring history and realistic love stories to life. Adventure and love on the high seas is my favorite setting.

I wrote...

Summer Warrior

By Regan Walker,

Book cover of Summer Warrior

What is my book about?

His lineage was of the High Kings of Ireland who owned the sea, but his family’s fortunes fell when the Norse pirates invaded the Isles, enslaving the people. All hope seemed lost when Somerled rose from the mists of Morvern to rally the Gaels, the Scots, and the Irish to fight. Sweeping across the Isles like a fast-moving storm, brilliant in strategy and fearless in battle, he began retaking his ancestral lands, driving away the invaders and freeing the people. In doing so, he would win the admiration of kings and the title Lord of Argyll, Kintyre and Lorne, and, eventually, Lord of the Isles. The unforgettable story of Somerled the Mighty, who forged the Kingdom of the Isles and won the love of a Norse princess.

In the Dark Spaces

By Cally Black,

Book cover of In the Dark Spaces

In the Dark Spaces is a stunning YA novel breathed into life by its main character, Tamara, a heroine who grabbed my heart from the first lines and didn’t let go. 

Tamara loves her family above everything else. And when she’s separated from them in a universe torn apart by war, she must draw on all her strength and smarts to survive. Her gift for languages and ability to adapt gives her an advantage when she’s captured by the enemy. But she’s also forced to do things that terrify her and break her heart. I love Tamara’s unique voice, and the way it expresses the deep bonds that tie us to friends and family made my heart sing. She’s truly a heroine that embodies the fighting spirit.

Who am I?

I love young adult fiction. I especially love it when female characters face their fears and fight for what’s right. And if they’re not afraid to run headfirst into a battle, even better. I think it’s incredibly important for young women to have access to books that break free of female stereotypes. None of the heroines in these books are waiting for someone to save them. They’re in the thick of it, confronting their demons, and maybe slaying a few, too! My PhD explored power and belonging in YA fiction, and I’ve written and presented on the importance of strong female characters. Here’s to girl power!

I wrote...

Dirt Circus League

By Maree Kimberley,

Book cover of Dirt Circus League

What is my book about?

Dirt Circus League is a compelling and fast-paced novel about the powerful allure of danger.

Asa’s running from a troubled past. To a remote outback town, a disappointing father, and a fresh start that’s already souring. But then the notorious Dirt Circus League arrives. A troupe of outcast teens performing spectacular fight sequences and challenging any who dares to take part. They’re ruthless. Menacing. Thrilling. And led by the magnetic Quarter. He’s dark, powerful, and intensely attractive—and he faces a threat only Asa can see. Will Asa be drawn into the league’s mysterious community? And, as she discovers the violent secrets at its heart, will she delve into her own untapped abilities to save herself—and heal those caught in its evil web?

Lovecraft Country

By Matt Ruff,

Book cover of Lovecraft Country

I first read H.P. Lovecraft when I was in college. His Cthulhu Mythos instantly grabbed my imagination. Lovecraft was a large part of the reason I started writing horror. Even back then, his disdain for foreigners and Black people and anyone else whose ancestors didn’t come over on the Mayflower, the way his did, was apparent. In recent years, Lovecraft’s racism has become a hot topic. That’s why I like this book: because it urns the usual Lovecraft trope of evil monsters from another dimension on its head by bringing the monsters closer to home, in the form of the horrors of the Jim Crow era. 

Who am I?

I’m a lifelong New Jerseyan married to a man whose family comes from Georgia. It gave me an opportunity to observe the white, Southern, upper-class weltanschauung, up close. To hear them talk, you’d think the Civil War had ended just a few days earlier, and if the Yankees had only respected states’ rights, none of that mess would have happened. My book is about a dysfunctional Georgia family who has far too much money than is good for them. Hijinks ensue.

I wrote...

White Oaks

By Jill Hand,

Book cover of White Oaks

What is my book about?

It’s hellishly hot and humid in South Georgia, down by the Florida state line. Things have a way of steaming down there, including tempers, and decades-long grudges. The Trapnells are world-class grudge-holders. Fabulously rich and more than a little crazy, patriarch Blanton Trapnell is a law unto himself, ruling over the town of Cobbs like a medieval king. When Blanton expresses the desire to kill someone with his bare hands as a ninetieth birthday present, his children get busy to make it appear to happen, without anyone getting hurt. Disaster befalls them when Blanton’s birthday present goes horribly, hilariously wrong.

Bad Marie

By Marcy Dermansky,

Book cover of Bad Marie

I was working as a nanny in New York City when I discovered this wild novel, and I consumed it in short order. Marie, fresh from prison, is hired out of pity to watch a high school friend’s daughter. “The situation would’ve been humiliating had Marie any ambition in life. Fortunately, Marie was not in any way ambitious.” Marie is instead selfish, culpable, hungry, and smitten—first with her friend’s life, then her friend’s husband, and most dangerously, her friend’s daughter. Dermansky’s novel could easily slip into thriller territory, and while it is as fast-paced and compulsively readable, instead we discover unpredictably that Bad Marie is really a love story.

Who am I?

“I didn’t like the characters.” “I couldn’t relate.” Whenever I hear someone bring up the matter of “likability” a single thought roars through my head: How ‘likable’ do you really think you are? A main purpose of fiction is to illuminate those nasty thoughts we all have but are rarely willing to admit. A book should be intimate, uncomfortably so, just as to actually occupy another person’s mind and body would be. It also seems to me “the characters” referenced by these kinds of critiques are always women. We expect fictional men to shock us and to struggle with their own desires; why should we expect women to only charm?

I wrote...


By Madeline Stevens,

Book cover of Devotion

What is my book about?

Ella is flat broke: wasting away on bodega coffee, barely making rent, seducing the occasional strange man who might buy her dinner. Unexpectedly, an Upper East Side couple named Lonnie and James rescue her from her empty bank account, offering her a job as a nanny and ushering her into their moneyed world. Both women are just 26—but unlike Ella, Lonnie has a doting husband and son, unmistakable artistic talent, and old family money.

Convinced there must be a secret behind Lonnie’s seemingly effortless life, Ella begins sifting through her belongings. All the while, Ella’s resentment grows, but so does an inexplicable and dizzying attraction. Riveting, propulsive, and startling, Devotion is a masterful debut novel where mismatched power collides with blinding desire, incinerating our perceptions of femininity, lust, and privilege.

Earthly Possessions

By Anne Tyler,

Book cover of Earthly Possessions

After much soul-searching, Charlotte Emory resolves to leave the motley cast of characters that make up her family in Clarion, Maryland. Her plans are foiled, however, by happenstance. When she goes to cash her getaway cheque, she becomes entangled with robber Jake Simms, who takes her hostage and spirits her south to Florida. Forks in the road abound in this novel, figurative and literal. In the end, however, and through sheer force of character, Charlotte bids farewell to Jake in particular and happenstance in general. She returns to her family, having made up her mind to take only those paths in life which reflect her true character and ensure that she is the wife and mother she should really be.

Who am I?

In my poetry, stories, novels, and scripts, I have long been drawn to the workings of chance: how it can charm characters by the opportunities it appears to offer; how it can turn attractive prospects inside out; and how it can so often force characters to confront realities which, perhaps for a long time, they have sought to avoid. Through different genres—science fiction, mainstream literary, lyric poetry, and realistic drama—I have, over the years, explored the notion of the fork in the road. Will a character choose their path wisely? Will they choose foolishly but press on against all odds? In literature, in lfe, such questions are crucial.

I wrote...

Sing Ho! Stout Cortez: Novellas and Stories

By Michael Wyndham Thomas,

Book cover of Sing Ho! Stout Cortez: Novellas and Stories

What is my book about?

A Grenadian exile in England receives distressing word about an old friend, a much-troubled troubadour. Thumbing through a photo album, a woman is ambushed by long-forgotten horrors. Hernán Cortés and Grace O’Malley, conquistador and pirate queen, grant a builders-yard labourer an hour of improbable glory. A young schoolboy drives into December darkness. In these novellas and stories, Michael W. Thomas gives eloquent voice to time and chance. Old and young, his characters confront life-changing moments. More, they make fresh discoveries about themselves, act in ways they would never have imagined, reshape their destinies or embrace whatever fate has in store. From the big picture to the smallest detail, these are compelling journeys through lives and places, studies of the human heart in all its richness.

A Guide for the Perplexed

By Dara Horn,

Book cover of A Guide for the Perplexed

Although this is my fun pick, it is also a serious book that I use in the classroom. There have been countless attempts by modern authors to retell biblical stories. Horn’s book creatively transfers the biblical story of Joseph and his brothers to the modern period, with a feminist twist. This book is engaging and coherent enough that it can be read and enjoyed without any knowledge of the Bible or Jewish history, although such knowledge makes it all the better!

Who am I?

No matter how you read it, the Bible is a strange book. It weaves together beautiful narratives and deadly-dull genealogies; uplifting messages with passages that many today find ethically repulsive. Yet it gained an extraordinary authority, in a predominantly pre-literate society. The question of how this happened has been an intellectual and scholarly preoccupation of mine for decades, and as a professor at Brown University I seek to bring my students and readers into this very foreign world in order to open their eyes to new possibilities in the present.

I wrote...

How the Bible Became Holy

By Michael L. Satlow,

Book cover of How the Bible Became Holy

What is my book about?

In this sweeping narrative, Michael Satlow tells the fascinating story of how an ancient collection of obscure Israelite writings became the founding texts of both Judaism and Christianity, considered holy by followers of each faith. Drawing on cutting-edge historical and archeological research, he traces the story of how, when, and why Jews and Christians gradually granted authority to texts that had long lay dormant in a dusty temple archive. The Bible, Satlow maintains, was not the consecrated book it is now until quite late in its history.

He describes how elite scribes in the eighth and seventh centuries B.C.E. began the process that led to the creation of several of our biblical texts. 

The Invitation-Only Zone

By Robert S. Boynton,

Book cover of The Invitation-Only Zone: The True Story of North Korea's Abduction Project

Starting in the 1970s, several dozen Japanese civilians – everyday people – were abducted by North Korean commandos and sent to detention centers known as Invitation-Only Zones, where the Kim regime attempted to brainwash and turn them into spies in their service. When that failed, the abductees were turned into teachers instead, to teach North Korean agents how to live undercover in Japanese society. It’s the kind of thing so crazy a lot of people don’t even believe it can be true – Kim Jong-Il only admitted to some of the abductions in 2002, and even then only to thirteen of them – and Boynton tells it meticulously and captivatingly.

Who am I?

I’ve always been fascinated by niche film world stories, and the kidnapping of Shin Sang-Ok and Choi Eun-Hee was my way in to North Korea, a country I was a layman about until I started researching A Kim Jong-Il Production. One thing I’ve found, through the writing of that book, traveling to North Korea, and the ensuing book tour, is that it’s a country it’s impossible not to be obsessed with once you’ve scratched the surface. The struggles and lives of ordinary people – in the face of such a repressive authoritarian regime – are unforgettable.

I wrote...

A Kim Jong-Il Production: The Extraordinary True Story of a Kidnapped Filmmaker, His Star Actress, and a Young Dictator's Rise to Power

By Paul Fischer,

Book cover of A Kim Jong-Il Production: The Extraordinary True Story of a Kidnapped Filmmaker, His Star Actress, and a Young Dictator's Rise to Power

What is my book about?

Before becoming the world's most notorious dictator, Kim Jong-Il ran North Korea's Ministry for Propaganda and its film studios. Conceiving every movie made, he acted as producer and screenwriter. Despite this control, he was underwhelmed by the available talent and took drastic steps, ordering the kidnapping of Choi Eun-Hee (Madam Choi) —South Korea's most famous actress—and her ex-husband Shin Sang-Ok, the country's most famous filmmaker. 

A nonfiction thriller packed with tension, passion, and politics, A Kim Jong-Il Production offers a rare glimpse into a secretive world, illuminating a fascinating chapter of North Korea's history that helps explain how it became the hermetically sealed, intensely stage-managed country it remains today.

The Eagle Has Landed

By Jack Higgins,

Book cover of The Eagle Has Landed

This book is a classic action-adventure story with a touch of spy thriller mixed in. It was apparently inspired by the rescue of Benito Mussolini led by SS officer Otto Skorzeny in 1943. But in this novel, also set in 1943, the plan isn’t to rescue someone. Rather, the objective is to kidnap Winston Churchill. Tasked with this daunting assignment is Lieutenant Colonel Kurt Steiner, a disgraced airborne paratrooper, allied with IRA operative Liam Devlin. Both make quite interesting protagonists – that's one of Higgins's best skills as a writer: with a brief sketch, he creates compelling characters. As this is not alternate history, readers know from the outset these characters have to fail, and yet, Higgins wrote a gripping narrative that keeps readers wondering what the characters will do next and how their mission will turn out.

Who am I?

I’m someone who has one of the best jobs in the world – I’m an associate professor of history. I get paid to learn and to share what I learn with my students. I am super passionate about my work, both teaching and research. As for my research, I’m a historian of Nazi Germany.

I wrote...

Marriage and Fatherhood in the Nazi SS

By Amy Carney,

Book cover of Marriage and Fatherhood in the Nazi SS

What is my book about?

When I was writing this book, several of my friends jokingly called it the Nazi baby book, with one insisting it would make a great title. Nazi Babies – admittedly, that is a catchy title, but that’s not exactly what my book is about. SS babies would be slightly more on topic, but it would be more accurate to say that I wrote a book about SS men as husbands and fathers.

From 1931 to 1945, leaders of the SS, a paramilitary group under the Nazi party, sought to transform their organization into a racially-elite family community that would serve as the Third Reich’s new aristocracy. They utilized the science of eugenics to convince SS men to marry suitable wives and have many children. Marriage and Fatherhood in the Nazi SS  is the first work to significantly assess the role of SS men as husbands and fathers during the Third Reich.

The King's Last Song

By Geoff Ryman,

Book cover of The King's Last Song

Ryman is known mainly as a science fiction and fantasy writer, and there’s a hint of that here, as the story moves back and forth between the twelfth century, the heyday of the Khmer Empire, and present-day, post-Khmer Rouge Cambodia. My own writing has tried to depict life in the ancient days, so I of course wanted to see how someone else would do it. The answer is superbly. Ryman gives us an epic-scale life story of the great king Jayavarman VII, about whom next to nothing is known on a personal level. But now there’s plenty, or so it can seem, because it’s impossible not to buy into this portrait: the king’s inner motivations, his empathy for ordinary people in his realm, his accomplishments that are both military and spiritual. And Ryman’s depiction of a modern society recovering from genocide rings horribly true, peopled by an aging French archaeologist,…

Who am I?

I first saw Angkor, capital of the Khmer Empire, in 1969 as a teenager and was bowled over by the place. I kept coming back as a journalist and author. They say you should write about things that truly crank your engine, and I found mine—imperial conquest, Hindu and Buddhist spirituality, astounding architecture, and the lives of the millions of people who inhabited and built the place. I’ve now written three non-fiction books and two historical novels set in the civilization’s twelfth-century peak. The novels are an effort to recreate life in the old days. They draw heavily on my years in Southeast Asia, experiencing what life is like in the present day.

I wrote...

A Woman of Angkor

By John Burgess,

Book cover of A Woman of Angkor

What is my book about?

The time is the twelfth century, the place Cambodia, birthplace of the lost Angkor civilization. In a village behind a towering stone temple lives a young woman named Sray, whom neighbors liken to the heroine of a Hindu epic. Hiding a dangerous secret, she is content with quiet obscurity, but one rainy season afternoon is called to a life of prominence in the royal court. There her faith and loyalties are tested by attention from the king. Struggling to keep her devotion is her husband Nol, palace confidante and master of the silk parasols that were symbols of the monarch's rank. The novel evokes the rites and rhythms of the ancient culture that built the temples of Angkor, then abandoned them to nature.

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