ANATOMY OF A KIDNAPPING
A Doctor’s Story
By Steven L. Berk
Texas Tech Univ. 248 pp. $27.95
An ordinary morning can turn into a nightmare in an instant. That’s what Steven L. Berk discovered in March 2005, when a gunman broke into his house while he was quietly reading. “Anatomy of a Kidnapping” is Berk’s memoir of being kidnapped and forced to drive around his hometown of Amarillo, Tex., for four hours while his captor called the shots from the backseat. More than a reconstruction of the traumatic day, the book is a look back at the author’s career as a doctor and how principles from his medical training helped him successfully navigate the crisis.
Berk recounts medical cases that influenced his decision-making. A patient with a faked illness taught him not to be too trusting and to be creative in looking for solutions; another patient, who died from an avoidable drug interaction, imparted the importance of paying attention to detail. Berk says that his medical training helped him stay calm and establish a bond with his captor. When the gunman complained of having back pain, the doctor switched into professional mode. “I listen to his symptoms and make suggestions about treatment options. . . . I’m a physician, that’s what I’ve been trained to do. I try to ignore the miles of empty space that stretch out around us in every direction.”
It was this mindset that enabled Berk to emerge unharmed from a predictament that was equal parts frightening and bizarre.