Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Guest Post: The Rules of Ransom by Martha Reed

Please welcome author Martha Reed to the blog today as she explains how research played a significant role in the tale…

The Rules of Ransom by Martha Reed

Buccaneer released NO REST FOR THE WICKED, Book 3 in my John and Sarah Jarad Nantucket Mystery series, last week. As they say on Nantucket, this one’s a whopper.

When state archaeologists lift the lid on a suspicious steamer trunk buried in Nantucket’s landfill, Detective John Jarad’s world explodes. The trunk’s contents reactivate intense interest in Nantucket’s most notorious cold case crime, the Baby Alice Spenser kidnapping in 1921.

Sarah Jarad has a slightly different life focus. Halfway through a twin pregnancy, Sarah is convinced that she is losing her mind. She can’t shake the feeling that she’s being watched. She’d like to blame her paranoia on raging hormones, but that doesn’t ring true. Sarah fears that her control freak ex-fiancée Mason has finally tracked her down, and that Mason is on Nantucket, plotting revenge.

As John pursues the Baby Alice investigation, myriad family scandals emerge from the Spenser’s privileged and gilded past. Events flare white-hot when a copycat criminal snatches a second child. John and Sarah must race against the clock to unmask the kidnapper and expose these modern day threats.

I needed to research two key elements in NO REST FOR THE WICKED: 1) the evolving world of forensic DNA analysis, and 2) because of the copycat kidnapping plot point, I needed to learn the rules of ransom.

Kidnapping wasn’t a national offense until 1932, when President Hoover signed it into law. Until then, authority was held at the state level. As part of my research, I discovered these rules to follow in a modern day kidnapping event:

1) The event is just getting started. Don’t expect it to be over quickly. Negotiations can take weeks, months, even years. There can even be a significant length of time after the ransom is paid before the person is returned.

2) The family and the ransom team need to stay strong and focused. Don’t give into emotion.

3) The family needs to decide on an initial lowball offer to establish a ransom base. This lowball offer lets the kidnappers know that the family is not going to cave in to their demands. Chances are that the kidnapper will reject the offer anyway, to show that they’re not afraid to play.

4) Kidnapping is about exercising control. The only power you have is that you’re the sole buyer in this particular market. Develop a game plan, and anticipate some back and forth negotiation.

5) Demand “proof of life.” Insist on speaking with the victim and hearing their voice. If the kidnapper refuses, be prepared to insist on it, or else the negotiations will not continue.

Researching this level of detail is what makes the story line authentic. It underlines the emotional pressure that my characters are experiencing, which helps me draft the narrative. Plus, it’s a great excuse to ask a lot of crazy questions, which makes the whole effort interesting and fun.

My publisher, Buccaneer/KMA Pittsburgh, decided to run a Fan Reader Appreciation sale on all of my Nantucket Mysteries to celebrate the launch of NO REST FOR THE WICKED, Book 3. The trade paperback price has dropped to $9.99; the ebook versions are only $3.99. The sale ends on March 15, 2017.

Martha Reed ©2017

MARTHA REED (web link: www.reedmenow.com) is the author of the award-winning John and Sarah Jarad Nantucket Mystery series.

Book 1, THE CHOKING GAME, was a 2015 Killer Nashville Silver Falchion nominee for Best Traditional Mystery. THE NATURE OF THE GRAVE, Book 2, won an Independent Publisher (IPPY) Honorable Mention for Mid-Atlantic Best Regional Fiction. Book 3, NO REST FOR THE WICKED was released by Buccaneer/KMA Pittsburgh in February, 2017.

Martha recently completed a four-year term as the National Chapter Liaison for Sisters in Crime, Inc. You can follow her on Twitter@ReedMartha.


Anne Louise Bannon said...

I didn't know kidnapping wasn't a federal crime until '32. Huh. I wonder how common kidnapping is as a crime.

Earl Staggs said...

Kidnapping happens more often than we think. Some people follow instructions and do not call in the police. They pay the ransom and get their loved ones back quietly. I believe in other countries, such as Mexico, kidnapping is considered a national sport.