Will Kidnapping Overcome Serial Murder?

It’s a well-known fact that serial killer novels murder the other sub-genres of crime fiction in popularity, but is there a different deviance abducting the minds of avid readers?
Theft can be exciting, and smuggling is certainly a highly profitable and potentially glamorous crime. What else? Money laundering and white-collar offences lack the high levels of action, but what about kidnapping? A swathe of mammoth, recent titles have embraced this criminal endeavour, and there are a few clear reasons why.

ONE- DISAPPEARANCE. Think of, “Gone Girl,” by Gillian Flynn. The peculiar notion that a person can disappear from our society is baffling, and when a writer manages to trap the reader into thinking, “WHERE THE HELL DID THAT CHARACTER GO?” while acknowledging that they’re still alive, we can be certain we’re in for a few exquisite surprises.

TWO- MOVEMENT. It’s sick, but we’re crime fiction fans, so I’m just going to say it: it’s more difficult to move and keep a live person than a dead one. Some of the most terrifying serial killers in the most riveting narratives are experts at attacking with horrifying precision and evading police, but what if they had to snatch someone off the street without injuring them? What if they had to transport a kicking, screaming, mobile phone carrying victim and what if they had to store this cunning, resourceful target somewhere for an extended period of time? All of a sudden, the odds are a little more even and wouldn’t we all like to read about a victim thrashing back against the evils that hide down the long, dark alleyways.
Candice Fox deserves mention at this point. She’s been winning all kind of awards down here in Australia and her debut novel, “Hades,” is pretty close to perfect. It might involve the MOVEMENT of victims.

THREE- SURVIVORS. It’s a strange (and perhaps upsetting) thought, but many of the characters in our favourite serial killer books never actually say anything. The victims can’t speak to the police or attempt some nerve-tingling vigilante revenge because, sorry, they’re already dead. In kidnap fiction, the victim interacts with the bad-buggers, and sometimes they can actually walk away.
It’s hard to name titles that strongly utilise this tool without spoiling a surprise since we’re talking about kidnap victims escaping or being released, but how about “Room,” by Emma Donoghue? This fantastically crafted novel introduces the reader to kidnap victims almost exclusively, whether they are freed or doomed (I’m not going to ruin the ending!) it’s fun and frightening to join them on their journey.

What do you reckon the strongest features of kidnap fiction are? Maybe the motives or methods?

For the second half of this blog, let’s discuss a couple of new kidnap novels.

“The Secrets She Keeps,” is Michael Robotham’s most recent psychological thriller (July 2017) and it is amazing. The novel takes a while to dive into the depravity and action, but that’s because Robotham is setting the reader up to sympathise with every character in the story. As the title suggests, there are a few secrets lurking after the initial chapters.
This book is a wonderful example of the potential of kidnap fiction to engage the reader, and draw you into the lives of each character without the constant sprinkling of bodies. Don’t get me wrong, I love brutal crime fiction novels, but I also like something that tastes a little different, and people snatching other people up like the best seats in a cinema provides that originality.
Here’s an example, a mate of mine that was reading this novel at the same time as me cried out, “I hope (someone) doesn’t get killed now!” when this character, who had become my favourite, clearly deserved a bullet between the eyes.

The second book I’d like to mention is my own. Sorry, I don’t mean to push it, but I can tell you that I chose to frame “Accidental Exposure,” around kidnapping because I realised the crime might be more difficult than murder. For all those reasons above, particularly the movement and the survivors, kidnapping is a very tough vocation. In “Accidental Exposure,” I wanted law-abiding family members to be forced into criminal acts. The deviants are not practised gangsters or killers, they’re a husband and a mother, and they must dive into a world of fear, violence and uncertainty.

“The Secrets She Keeps,” also draws a series of inexperienced law-breakers into a web of deception and difficulty that is often absent from serial killer fiction. Many of the very best serial killer novels are the best because their serial killers are so much more adept than the detectives chasing them. The villains are just so damn frightening! In contrast, “The Secrets She Keeps,” will have you trying to figure out what mistakes the criminals are going to make, and the Crown family in “Accidental Exposure,” are going to have to hurt each other before they can begin to battle the criminals in their lives. Do you see the potential for variety here?

I’ll finish this post with a few numbers relating to, “The Secrets She Keeps,” by Michael Robotham, but hopefully you don’t need any more convincing to keep an eye out for kidnap titles in the future. Once you read a few, you might feel the need to keep an eye out for kidnappers too.
If you want something different, "Accidental Exposure," is available on Amazon.com here:

And if you haven't discovered Candice Fox yet, "Hades," is the perfect place to start!

“The Secrets She Keeps,” By Michael Robotham.
Setting: 7/10

Characters: 8/10
Plot: 8/10
Style: 6.5/10
Balance: 3/5
Pace: 3/5

Total: 35.5/50

Image credits: 
The Secrets She Keeps (2017) cover. Michael Robotham.
Room (2010) Cover. Emma Donoghue.
Hades (2014) Cover. Candice Fox.
Gone Girl (2012) Cover. Gillian Flynn  


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