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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Girl in the Cellar - Allan Hall and Michael Leidig (True Crime)



Released March 2010

www.harpercollins.com

It's every parent's nightmare. Your child heads off to school and vanishes. In 1998, this exact scenario played out. Natascha Kampusch left for school following a great weekend with her father and an argument with her mother. Still upset over getting slapped, Natascha ignored her instincts when she saw a man in a white van parked near her school. That decision changed her life.

The man in the van, Wolfgang Priklopil, pulled Natascha into his van and took her to his very secure home. There he put her in a tiny hidden basement room and locked the door. For eight years, Natascha remained his captive. After her 18th birthday, Priklopil began to give her a little more freedom and started taking her to stores when he'd go out. When she felt the chance was best, she escaped. Girl in the Cellar examines Natascha's kidnapping, life behind locked doors and eventual escape.

I'm saddened that so much of the Austrian public opted to take the line that Natascha could have escaped sooner. Without being in that room, without being in her exact situation, it's impossible to state how  you would have acted. Whether it's a touch of Stockholm Syndrome or her fear of the numerous security systems Priklopil had set up inside and outside the home, I can see being 10 years old and being terrified. As years pass, locked in a cramped space, often without lights, I'm surprised she was able to retain her sanity. This is an incredibly courageous girl!

Natascha's story is going to intrigue true crime fans. I won't say the book kept me hooked. Some repetition in the book made it drag a bit. Otherwise, I found it shocking that I'd missed this case in the papers and amazed that she did survive.

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