The Kidnap Years: The Astonishing True History of the Forgotten Kidnapping Epidemic That Shook Depression-Era America

David Stout. Sourcebooks, $26.99 (448p) ISBN 978-1-4926-9479-3

Edgar-winner Stout (Carolina Skeletons) makes his nonfiction debut with a thrilling account that puts the 1932 Lindbergh baby kidnapping case, billed as “the crime of the century,” in the context of the thousands of other kidnappings that occurred in the U.S. during the Prohibition and Depression eras. The kidnappers were often gangsters and bootleggers, and relatives sometimes turned to the local mob for help in freeing the victims. Even Charles Lindbergh, early in the investigation into his son’s kidnapping, asked gangsters for help. But even after Lindbergh paid the ransom, the baby’s body was found by the side of the road with a fractured skull and four years passed Richard Hauptmann was tried and executed for the crime, though he denied any involvement. Other horrific outcomes include the case of a 12-year-old California girl who was kidnapped in 1927 and whose body was returned to her parents in pieces after the ransom was paid. Some kidnappings had much better outcomes, such as that of banker August Luer, who was released unharmed after his kidnappers got tired of taking care of him. Dialogue taken from the printed news reports of the time heightens the drama. This collection of kidnapping stories anchored by the Lindbergh case will enthrall true crime fans. Agent: Deborah Hofmann, David Black Literary. (Apr.)