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Invisible Chains: Shawn Hornbeck And The Kidnapping Case That Shook The Nation Paperback – April 15, 2008

3.5 out of 5 stars 38 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Sauerwein, a former reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and the L.A. Times, delves into a puzzling kidnapping case with penetrating true crime reporting. She describes 11-year-old Shawn Hornbeck's disappearance from his rural Missouri hometown, while riding his bike in 2002. He was abducted by Michael Devlin, an innocuous-seeming pizza-shop manager who repeatedly sexually abused and tortured Shawn for four years. In a strange twist, Devlin also assumed a fatherly role and Hornbeck became his son; even given freedom to go out alone, Hornbeck never tried to escape. Shawn was joined by another kidnapped boy, Ben Ownby, four days before the police nabbed Devlin in January 2007. The unusual psychological aspects of Hornbeck's captivity and his failure to attempt to escape are explained, according to Sauerwein, by the Stockholm syndrome, which leads a captive to bond with his captor. An impeccable, on-target true crime narration, this book of loss, perversity and redemption illuminates not only the desperate pangs of a predator's sexual hunger but the steadfast love of two families for their missing children. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

“An impeccable, on-target true crime narration, this book of loss, perversity and redemption illuminates not only the desperate pangs of a predator’s sexual hunger but the steadfast love of two families for their missing children.”
―Publishers Weekly
“No stone has been unturned. This is a must read.”
―Jerald Barnes, a lieutenant with the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department
and one of the nation’s most respected hostage negotiators

“Invisible Chains is a tribute to the courage, persistence, and resilience of these boys and their families.”
―David L. Corwin, M.D., Medical Director at Primary Children’s Center for
Safe and Healthy Families and Professor and Chief of the Child Protection and
Family Health Pediatrics Department, University of Utah School of Medicine

“…a deep psychological look at child predator Michael Devlin.”
―Caitlin Rother, author of Poisoned Love, the authoritative account of the Kristin
Rossum murder case, and Twisted Triangle, a narrative of the Patricia Cornwell
love affair case
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 328 pages
  • Publisher: Lyons Press; 1st edition (April 15, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1599213443
  • ISBN-13: 978-1599213446
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #507,152 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Normally, I agree with most Amazon reviewers. This time, however, I must object. INVISIBLE CHAINS is not a 5 star read and, in some ways, I feel my rating of 3 stars is generous. Here is a breakdown of the good, the bad, and the ugly.

The Good: The author did consult with several psychologists and forensic psychiatrists who have studied the Shawn Hornbeck abduction. The portion of the book pertaining to the kind of sex offender that Michael Devlin was and remains is by far the most interesting section of the book and reads quickly.

The Bad: The author DID NOT interview Shawn Hornbeck, either of his parents, Ben Ownby (the other abducted child found in the shabby apartment), or either of his parents. She also did not speak with any of the lead investigators or the prosecuting attorney. Every quote provided by any of these individuals was taken from previously written accounts in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Associated Press, and other publications. Because there were no interviews with any of the key figures, there really is no information in the book pertaining to the abduction and abuse that could not be gleaned from newspaper accounts.

The Ugly: The first 6 chapters of the book (a full 60 pages) detailed the ongoing search for Shawn Hornbeck in the 6-8 weeks following his abduction. These chapters were interminably long, repetitive, and boring. (How many times must one read that there were no clues found?) These chapters could easily have been reduced to one chapter without losing any content.

The author has a rather awkward style of writing in which she frequently writes sentence fragments as complete sentences. I understand that sometimes this literary tool is used to add interest or underscore a point.
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Some people wonder how to prevent child abduction/abuse, so they'd like to know exactly what happened, how it happened, and what kind of man Devlin was. This book answers those questions. More importantly, this book fully answers and explains all the psychological reasons why Shawn didn't escape (hence the title).

Some people became extremely interested in this case, either before or after Shawn was found. Particularly after he was found, there was intense and prolific sharing of every new development via the Court TV forums, the St. Louis and national media websites, and Christopher Leonard's excellent coverage for the Associated Press. We have rallied behind the family & their cause, and rejoice in their recoveries. If you are one of us, this book has *nothing new* except for psychological information and interviews with experts. Very few, if any, new interviews have been done (none with the families), and all quotes are familiar from items we've already read and discussed. If you fit this category, you may wish to skip this book.

However, this book is extremely educational for the general public. The author has drawn together many published sources and tied it together in a way the general public can understand and learn from. After reading it, the general public will understand much more clearly why Shawn didn't leave, and that a victim of any age can be made psychologically unable to escape even when physically able to do so. For anyone who thinks they or their child would have handled the situation differently, this book will point out the sobering facts.

Additionally, the story of Shawn's recovery and the relationships among the Akers family is quite inspirational, as they have supported and stood by him every step of the way and helped him grow into a healthy and successful adult - unlike some of the families of former abduction/abuse survivors. Reading about Shawn's journey from victim to survivor gives the reader hope in a dark world.
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Format: Paperback
I frequently read true crime books of all varities, and this is one of the best I have read lately. The story was so shocking, as it was originally reported, and it really left me with more questions than answers. The author really puts the events of January 2007 in context with the disappearance as first reported. The expert accounts and information is tremendously insightful.
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This book is very informative in the ease that abductors have in preying on their victims! It also attests to the fact that children can and often do recover to some degree after an abduction. Some children are more resilient than others though.Some can simply put it all behind them but usually there is a some degree of apprehension in all of the victims. I know from experience that the invisible chains are as restrictive as the iron chains and also that even when one is safe the invisible chains still have a tight grip on the mind
!!!
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Format: Paperback
Fascinating case, not a fascinating book: this is simply compiled news stories with the author making comments every chapter about what a horrible person the kidnapper was. There is a great deal of repeat and redundancy. Looks like she padded every chapter.

I did enjoy some of the detail about the pervert's success at his job. It is amazing to think that he was actually quite well-liked (or tolerated) at his workplace, reliable, and efficient. All that ability to please his boss was hiding the soul of a child molester. I don't know that the author tried to get access to much new material although it appeared she'd reviewed everything thoroughly. She explored Stockholm Syndrome via some interviews with psychiatrists. This is assumed to be what prevented Shawn Hornbeck from leaving after the initial kidnapping and abuse.

One shortcoming, and it probably will remain in future writings on this case, is the lack of info from the victims and their families on recovery and progress after the boys were discovered. The crimes' details are not for public review and should not be, for the good of the children involved. So, I considered what Sauerwein wrote tasteful to the extent that no really personal remarks reflecting on the boys' behavior, decisions, victimization, etc. were made. A decent overview of the crime is the best I could say.
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