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Invisible Chains: Shawn Hornbeck And The Kidnapping Case That Shook The Nation Paperback – April 15, 2008
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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.
―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
Top customer reviews
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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. However, this technique was employed throughout the length of the book and was, simply put, very awkwardly used and overused. It was a less than stellar attempt at writing and did nothing to further the impact of the written word.
Finally, the author did not maintain a coherent timeline. There were many, many occasions in which the author jumps backwards in time to reiterate or add to information that had already been discussed. Again, it was simply an awkward recounting of events.
While I understand that Shawn Hornbeck and Ben Ownby and their families are owed thier privacy and the children are under no obligation to disclose the details of their captivity and sexual abuse, I did find it more than disappointing that the information contained in the book is no more than what could be gained from reading newpaper accounts that were, in an of themselves, vague. For instance, what did Shawn do every day while Michael Devlin worked at a dead-end job as a pizza parlor manager? Even basic questions such as this are not explored and not answered.
In closing, if you are an avid True Crime fan hoping for previously unknown information and relevant interviews with the victims and their families, you will not find it here. And, while the public is certainly not owed an explanation about the tragic events that unfolded inside a grimy apartment where 2 young boys were held captive and subjected to repeated sexual abuse, I do not think a book totaling 318 pages was necessary, helpful, or particularly interesting.
I also found the repeated references to Devlin as "the monster man" childish and added no value whatsoever.
Overall this was a pretty disappointing read. You could get about as much out of the Wikipedia article (or any of the dozens of published news media articles that are about the only source material for this book) and avoid the unnecessary and thinly veiled disgust and condescension for small town life in a flyover state.
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