by | May 22, 2016 | KJ Howe | 20 comments

By KJ Howe

There are 25 elite professionals across the globe who travel undercover to the deadliest hotspots in the world to bring hostages home safely by any means necessary.

These remarkable individuals, called response consultants, leave their homes for weeks or even months at a time to insert themselves into a captive’s family at the height of the crisis.  They take total control of the response, choose the best representative to interact with the kidnappers, direct the life or death negotiations, and when all else fails, plan and lead rescue operations.

This is the world I’ve been researching for the past two years, meeting with experts in Miami and London, two cities that serve as hubs for this industry.  I’ve spent hours talking to former hostages, response consultants, K&R insurance executives, reintegration experts, and the Special Forces soldiers who deliver ransoms and execute rescues when negotiations break down.

Why did this world intrigue me?  I’ve lived in many places, including Saudi Arabia, Kenya, Switzerland, Austria, Puerto Rico, and others.  My education was eclectic–part school, part adventure, as I was introduced to different cultures, languages, and religions.  Because of my background, I was always interested in international subjects and locales.

Which led me to kidnapping:  a growing international crisis with over 40,000 abductions a year.  Kidnapping is the ultimate purgatory, where everyone but the hostage and his/her family continues the routines of everyday life.  During captivity, you’re alive, but you can’t live.  The kidnappers control every aspect of your life while inflicting verbal and physical abuse.  You wake up every morning wondering if this day might be your last.

And experts report the most difficult day of a kidnapping is the day you’re set free.  You’re not the same person you were before you were taken; it’s impossible to move on like nothing has happened.  Hostages often delineate their lives in two parts, life before kidnap and life afterwards.  Kidnappers steal more than the time you’re in captivity. They rob some individuals of their entire future–and that can destroy a family.

This is the theme I explore in THE FREEDOM BROKER, the first book of the series about elite kidnap negotiator Thea Paris.  Nicknamed Liberata because she once brought a hostage home from the clutches of the Sicilian Mafia without paying a cent.  Thea has intensely personal reasons for choosing this career, and they motivate her to do whatever it takes to bring people back home.

As we move forward with the Rogue Women Blog, I hope to share some of the things I’ve learned about the dark world of kidnapping.  It has been a fascinating journey, and I’ve integrated some interesting facts into my novel.  Please visit me at  THE FREEDOM BROKER will be out in February 2017, but the pre-orders should be available soon.

One last question before I go:  What would you sacrifice to bring your loved one home?

Donโ€™t Miss a Thing!



  1. S. Lee Manning

    Fascinating. I had no idea that so many kidnappings occurred or of the existence of an elite profession dealing just with kidnappings. Looking forward to reading!

  2. Sonja Stone

    I've heard of response consultants but had no idea they were so immersed in the lives of the kidnappers. I stress over writing deadlines–I can't imagine negotiating for someone's life for a living! I'm really looking forward to THE FREEDOM BROKER!

  3. Unknown

    I like your question, for it was a concern of mine when my mom traveled to a certain country with a friend, and I pondered… What WOULD I do? It's one of those potentials stories still sitting in the back burner.

  4. Gayle Lynds

    I love your research and insights, KJ. Can't wait to read your novel!

  5. Loreth

    Can't wait to read, Kim.

  6. Unknown

    I can't even image being put in this situation. If it happened to my child, what wouldn't I sacrifice to bring her back? Interesting premise for a book and lead character. Looking forward to reading THE FREEDOM BROKER.

  7. KJ Howe

    Sandy, sadly kidnapping is a growth industry with many displaced military and police joining the ranks of kidbappers because they are desperate for money. It is a fascinating and dangerous world.

  8. KJ Howe

    Sonja, the response consultants I have met are special people with nerves of steel. One told me that he holds it together during the negotiations but on the flight home, he is often in tears from exhaustion and stress. Thanks for stopping by!

  9. KJ Howe

    Alex, it's hard to imagine what one would do until it happens and I know it never does. I would certainly call in the experts. This world is too complicated to navigate without them.

  10. KJ Howe

    Thanks, Gayle! It has been a fascinating journey and I hope to write many more Thea Paris stories.

  11. KJ Howe

    Thanks, Ursula. As a mom, I'm sure you would do whatever it took to bring your child home. Abductions of children are the scariest…and leave the parents so vulnerable.

  12. rjh

    What an interesting area to explore in fiction. It sounds like it is a massive industry and something one needs to take into account any time one travels overseas. Who would have thought you can buy insurance for that kind of event. Really looking forward to getting a copy of Freedom Broker, I hope it flies off the shelves for you.

  13. Beth Rhodes

    Great article, KJ. Really looking forward to the books. ๐Ÿ™‚

    My sister and her husband [a Mexican with family down there] went to Mexico several years ago when kidnapping was resurging in that region. It had become a lucrative business. ๐Ÿ˜› They stayed less than a year and returned to the states. It wasn't safe! <3 We were glad to have them back on US soil.

  14. KJ Howe

    Thanks, rjh for stopping by today and for your kind wishes. Many multinational companies are now holding kidnap prevention seminars for their employees to protect them against being abducted.

  15. KJ Howe

    Hi Beth, thanks for stopping by! Mexico is a hotbed for kidnapping these days, and I'm relieved your family is back on US soil. One of the toughest issues in Mexico is that some of the police are corrupt, even in on the kidnappings. And the drugs wars cause a host of kidnappings as well.

  16. KJ Howe

    Thanks, Loreth! Miss you!

  17. Jan Mardis

    I had no idea it was so many, and I can't even imagine the day to day feelings of the person who is kidnapped. Your book sounds wonderful and I can"t wait to read it!!!

  18. Chris Goff

    KJ, I read your blog with great interest. My cousin is an oil geologist who works mostly in Mexico. He has crews in the forest south of Cuernavaca and he's had to ransom them several times. In his case it's been fairly simple and those kidnapped not harmed.

    What it really brought to mind was when I was 19 and backpacking through Europe with my grade school friend. We were in Marseille and warned to be back to the youth hostel before the sunset. We dallied with a friend drinking wine on the beach a bit too long, and it was a terrifying walk back past the sailor bars. The next day when we were down near the port, we saw so many flyers for women (most Northern European at that time) who had gone missing out of Marseille–many expected to have ended up in Morocco. Later we met a girl in Vienna who had travelled through Morocco. One day on the street a man approached, grabbed her face, looked at her teeth and offered her boyfriend 9 camels for her. A hefty sum at the time. Thankfully, he wasn't mad at her that day.

    Looking forward to the book!


  19. KJ Howe

    Chris, that is quite the story! I'm so relieved you were safe. Human tracking and kidnapping are serious global issues and I hope that more attention will be given to address the underlying reasons for them. Thank you for stopping by!!!

  20. Ursula Ringham

    I can't even image being put in this situation. If it happened to my child, what wouldn't I sacrifice to bring her back? Interesting premise for a book and lead character. Looking forward to reading THE FREEDOM BROKER.