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Bob Ojala
KIDNAPPED - A Tugboater's Tale
Bob Ojala, author
Well researched story about Human Trafficking of young girls and boys in the United States. Strong women characters, working undercover to bust these sex traffickers 'stables' in order to free those who were abducted. The story describes how the the abductees are selected and controlled.
Ojala offers a rare and deeply researched insight into the world of human trafficking in middle America. Lake Michigan tugboat captain Ashley Walter and her husband Adam disappear after disembarking to buy pizzas for their crew. Young crew member Steve Steiner raises alarm over the couple’s disappearance, and both he and his father, Curt, must plunge into the grim netherworld of sex trafficking, working closely with police to conduct covert operations to gather the evidence to bring down those involved in smuggling these women across state boundaries.

Much of the novel’s strength comes from its female protagonists. There is Ashley, the tugboat captain who gets kidnapped, only to escape quickly by outwitting her kidnappers. Moved by what she witnessed and concerned about the welfare of other young women who fell victim to these traffickers, Ashley volunteers to work with the police on a sting operation, along with Officer Elizabeth “Liz” Trent, an experienced undercover officer who has busted many trafficking rings. Under her hardened exterior, Liz is an exceptionally empathetic police official who treats each young woman she rescues with kindness, making sure they reach their respective homes safely.

Though fast paced and suspenseful, with a strong sense of milieu, especially the “tough, steel mill town” of East Chicago, Indiana, not a place commonly assumed to be a hotspot of traffickers. (One character notes “I thought those places only existed in Detroit or Chicago, not right here.”) Still, the book often reads like a series of various characters’ adventures rather than one cohesive story, with perspective shifts from chapter to chapter and some plot points, such as the fact that civilians volunteer their services to the police and participate in high stake operations, strain credulity. The budding romance between Steve and Liz, though, is engaging, which makes it easier for readers to invest in the plot and its characters and look forward to subsequent sequels of the novel.

Takeaway: This suspenseful dive into human trafficking in middle America is distinguished by strong female characters.

Great for fans of:Lisa Clonch Tschauner’s Reclamation, Helen C. Escott’s Operation Trafficked.

Production grades
Cover: B+
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: B+
Marketing copy: A-