Recently I finished The Birthday Party: A Memoir of Survival by Stanley N. Alpert, the story of a federal prosecutor who was kidnapped in New York back in 1998 and obviously lived to tell the tale.
Alpert was literally grabbed off the streets late one night as he returned home from one of his perennial blind dates. Showing an amazing amount of grace under pressure, Alpert managed to use his legal training to commit key details to memory and to put a series of clues together that eventually led police to his captors.
I haven’t given away any details that aren’t on the book jacket. What makes this book an interesting read is the way that Alpert analyzes his kidnappers’ motives, their personalities, and their ultimate humanity. It’s also clear that Alpert is incredibly intelligent and that his ability to move beyond the natural feelings of fear and on to a more calculated response to his captors is what ultimately led to his release.
Alpert divides his memoir into two parts, the kidnapping and the events that followed his release. Of the two, I found the kidnapping portion to be far more interesting. I’ll admit to skimming the second section at times. Since it’s obvious from the first that Alpert was released (or else it would be difficult to write a memoir!), it’s a bit difficult to maintain the suspense that would exist if this were a novel.
I would recommend this book to legal buffs and those who enjoy true crime stories. It’s an interesting reflection on urban crime and the motivations for it, a character study both of the kidnappers and of Alpert himself.