Welcome Jen Danna – The Thrilling World of Hostage Negotiation

By Liz – and today I’m super excited for our “other genre” guest, Jen Danna! This post is right up my alley – I love reading action-packed stories where hostage negotiators are trying to beat the clock in a stressful situation. Jen takes us behind the scenes to learn all about their tricky, high-stakes job. Take it away, Jen!

Thanks so much to Liz for the invitation to join you all today!

Police procedural thrillers can be extremely entertaining—the intrigue of high stakes criminal acts, the heart-pounding ride of the chase, and the challenge of actually having to stick to legalities (unlike those lucky amateur sleuths and PIs who get to bend the rules!). But what if the lives of multiple victims regularly rest in your protagonist’s hands? That’s the world of hostage negotiation. It’s Gemma Capello’s world in the NYPD Negotiators series.

Hostage negotiators are a special breed of law enforcement. Within the NYPD, they are experienced officers; interested individuals can’t even apply to join the Hostage Negotiation Team until they’ve been on the force for at least twelve years. In that time, officers learn the human side of law enforcement—not just the crime, but the story behind it, and, more importantly, the people behind it. It’s that understanding of human nature and human frailty that allows them to connect with victim and hostage taker alike.

They’re called the Hostage Negotiation Team, but the emphasis is on the negotiation, not the hostages. These negotiators are also the first line of protection for distressed individuals, those wanting to take their own lives because they don’t see any way out other than stepping off a bridge or jumping in front of a subway train. That’s when the ability to make a personal connection can be a truly life-saving skill.

Of course, the most dangerous situations arise when the innocent are taken hostage. Then it’s the ultimate fine line to walk. In SHOT CALLER, Detective Gemma Capello is confronted with an extremely complicated situation: Inmates in a secure unit at Rikers Island have rioted and taken eight correction officers hostage. Gemma needs to negotiate for the live release of all the hostages, all while knowing her hands are essentially tied behind her back. There isn’t much she is allowed to offer as a trade for the hostages, and she’s dealing with inmates who were already looking ahead to life sentences, and therefore have absolutely nothing left to lose. 

Like real-life hostage negotiators, Gemma carries a gun and a badge, but force and violence are not her tools. She uses connection, compassion, and empathy to bridge the gap between herself and the hostage taker. But in a situation like that, the ability to think on your feet, pivot adroitly in the face of constantly changing circumstances, and, above else, to stay calm when disaster strikes is paramount. 

While most of us have never had to negotiate a life-and-death situation, have you ever successfully negotiated something in your life? A raise, an argument, a better price on your new car, or maybe your way into that peanut butter cup Blizzard you’ve been hankering for? Darn it… now I’m hungry! 😉

To celebrate the launch of NYPD Negotiators #2, SHOT CALLER, I’m giving away a hardcover copy to a random commenter. Please share your thoughts below and good luck in the draw! (Giveaway open to residents of Canada and the US; contest closes at noon EDT on September 25th)

A scientist specializing in infectious diseases, Jen works with a cutting-edge research group on three national COVID-19 clinical trials. After a day battling microscopic pathogens, she enjoys spending her evenings taking on hostage takers and serial killers. She is the author of the NYPD Negotiators thriller series, and, with Ann Vanderlaan, writes both the FBI K-9 series (as Sara Driscoll) and the Abbott and Lowell Forensic Mysteries. You can find her at https://jenjdanna.com/ and on social media:

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/JenJDanna 

Twitter: http://twitter.com/jenjdanna

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/jen.j.danna/ 

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5807939.Jen_J_Danna 


In Jen J. Danna’s gripping suspense series, NYPD detective Gemma Capello is called to Rikers Island, where a prison riot threatens to become a bloodbath . . .

On Rikers Island, tensions always run high, especially in the Enhanced Supervision Housing unit. The ESH is home to Rikers’ most dangerous offenders, many of them members of rival street gangs. When Gemma Capello and her team get word of an uprising at the ESH, they know how much is at stake. Gemma also has her own unresolved feelings to deal with—this is the first case she and Detective Sean Logan have worked together since a siege at City Hall that ended with the hostage taker’s death.

Built to hinder escape, prisons are also especially difficult for a tactical team to invade. That’s a last resort for Gemma, but the longer the inmates remain in control, holding corrections officers hostage, the greater the risk. Gemma begins negotiating with Kill Switch, a young, aggressive member of the Filero Kings gang and the inmates’ spokesman. She can tell the stress level is escalating inside. That may give her team some advantages, but it soon leads to a brutal act of retribution—and threats of more to come.

Navigating assumptions on all sides, Gemma desperately tries to stop the body count from rising. But with disagreements and volatility increasing all around, the only certainty is that the next misstep may be a fatal one . . .

SHOT CALLER is available at these fine retailers: Amazon.com, Amazon.ca, Amazon.co.uk, Audible, Barnes and Noble, Books-A-Million, Bookshop.org, Hudson Booksellers, IndieBound, Indigo, Target, and Walmart.

43 Thoughts

  1. Hmm. Negotiations. I’m the widow of a WWII and Korea veteran who self-medicated with alcohol for the first 10 years of our marriage and we remained married until he dies just before what should have been our 36th anniversary. Must have been some negotiating in there as he died of complications of lung cancer.

      1. Actually, he had quit smoking 25 years before he was diagnosed with stage 3 in March and died in August 2007 at age 82.

  2. When I bought my first new car I managed to get the price I wanted for my trade-in and the price I wanted to pay for the car. It took some time but I did it. I can be very stubborn. Thank you for this chance! pgenest57 at aol dot com

  3. First off I have to say that I LOVE the cover on SHOT CALLER! Can’t wait for the opportunity to dive into reading all about Detective Gemma Capello’s negotiation skills at Rikers Island.

    As for being a negotiator myself, I think I inherited (or learned by example) my bargaining skills from my Dad. I grew up with listening to him work for the best deal and then once that was shook on he would anti it up by finding out what else he could get for free – be it a hat or some other sort of freebie. As an adult, I learned to appreciate that skill and have used it many times myself. One of the last times I’ve used it was when we bought out Tempur-pedic mattress set. After getting the best deal which also included them foregoing the delivery charge which was substantial since we lived out of town, I noticed two about 18 inch teddy bears that were made out of the same material as the mattress making them extremely soft. They were not for sale and they were purely for display and to show the comfort of the mattress. I’d never seen them before and was told that more than likely I never would. Before I left the store, I had both bears in my arms.

    Where as Gemma’s negotiations are a matter of life and death, mine are more in the fun line trying to get that little extra deal which always brings a smile to my face as it makes me think of my Dad.

    Thank you for the chance to win a hardcover copy of SHOT CALLER, which would be an awesome addition to my permanent collection. Shared and hoping to be the fortunate one selected.
    2clowns at arkansas dot net

    1. Thanks for your comments on the cover. The Kensington art department is really fantastic!

      I love the story about the bears! You definitely sound like someone to have on hand the next time someone is making a big purchase! 😀

  4. Jen, welcome to the blog and congratulations! This sounds like a fabulous – and nail-biting – read. Please tell our readers how in the world you researched this series. Did you make friends with a real negotiator? Have an in on the force? There must be so many details to get right.

    I once negotiated a very nice raise when I realized how underpaid I was. I had a two-year-old PhD and had just landed a job at a small software startup with a sloppy controller who left the salary spreadsheet out on her desk. When I realized that Jim – younger than me and with a masters, not a doctorate, but doing the same work – was being paid way more than I was, I went to my boss (also my age). I said, “I have two reactions to this. One is to do nothing, since apparently that’s all you think I am worth. The other is to work really hard to show you how good I am.” He suggested trying the second plan. I did, and a month later he had doubled my pay.

    1. First of all, well done on that pay raise! You clearly deserved it and I’m so glad you had a boss that came through for you!

      I’m a scientist by trade, not a cop or a negotiator. But I wrote a negotiator into the first FBI K-9 book and the role really caught me. Someone who is proactive, not reactive, and who is attempting to stop a crime before it happens and can have a real impact. It’s definitely an interesting angle of law enforcement.

  5. Oooh that book sounds good!! I was a Contracting Officer for the government and we took lots of classes in contract negotiation, so I’ve had some practice lol. Plus some Yankee trader in me, so I love negotiating for cars and at sales, I’ve even bargained for items at local stores. Comes in handy with kids (and husbands) too!

  6. I confess to be a lousy buyer negotiator. I leave that to hubs who is stellar. I, on the other hand, am the human nature negotiator. I have the knack of feeling what’s in someone’s heart and mind and talking them off the ledge.

    Love the cover, and the premise – I’m curious, how did you train to write this book effectively? It had to be a very difficult research project to get right1

    Thank you for all the hard work you are doing to keep us COVID safe. Talk about your difficult jobs. Stay safe and well. We need you to keep writing.

    1. Teamwork! It sounds like you and your husband are a great pair. 🙂

      I did a lot of research for this series. Read a lot written by actual negotiators, spent a long time studying one of the past NYPD commanders. And a lot of is is common sense – respect, patience, being calm under pressure. Easier said than done, of course!

  7. I wanted a GPS in the last car I bought. It was included in the one I had before that but the manufacturer started charging $500 to install the chip. The screen and everything else was already in the new vehicle. I got the dealer to throw it in for free. It was about the 5th car we’ve bought from that dealer over the years so I figured they could afford to.

  8. Seems like I have negotiated my way through life. Being an only child, there were so many times I had to decide just what I wanted to say for what it was I wanted to do. As a young wife and mother, I was exposed to “volunteer work” which in itself always turns out to be a lesson in “how to work with others” which at every bend in the road means negotiating what each person will do and be responsible for completing. Marriage and motherhood require the best negotiating skills of all, but happily I have been married for 50 years and have children I enjoy as adults. 😉

    1. I agree with marriage and motherhood requiring some upper level negotiating skills. Maybe not life and death, but definitely the kind of skills that can lead to a happy and peaceful home. 🙂

  9. Welcome to the Wickeds. Jenna! It is so great to have you here. I’m not a natural negotiator. I much prefer a world where everyone states directly what they want and we see whether we have an interest in common. But I do it when I have to.

    1. I certainly understand that desire! It would be nice if people just said what they want, and it didn’t become a game to find the best middle ground. But yes, there are times when we have to do it…

  10. I am naturally an introvert so I have to push myself to be more extroverted. I worked in the social work field many years and counseled many people on better ways to do things so that is where negotiation skills were used. You need to be able to do that somewhat to get people what they need.

  11. The book sounds exciting! I don’t think I’ve ever read a book with a hostage negotiation in the plot, but have enjoyed movies and TV shows in the genre. Looking forward to getting to know Gemma!

  12. Love the ideas behind this series. It sounds so exciting! My husband and I negotiated a better deal on a home we were considering buying (and then bowed out after the inspection) and then negotiated and offered a lower price for the home we did end up buying.

    1. Of all the times to negotiate, this is definitely the one where you can save yourself the most money, simply because of the size of the purchase. Glad it worked out so well for you!

  13. I’ve always admired hostage negotiators. I mean, here’s a person who is clearly breaking the law and has to know at some level they aren’t going to get away with it. Yet the negotiator has to remain calm, compassionate, and keep a level-head through the whole thing.

    I’m always the one who handles the big negotiations in our house, like car buying. My husband usually wants the thing so badly, he’s willing to give in before he should (this is how we ended up owners of a Dodge Magnum station wagon once, but I digress),

  14. Wow! What a lot of research you had to do to write this book. Thank you so much for sharing. It sounds very intriguing.

  15. I’m not a good negotiator at all. And all that stress wouldn’t be something I could tolerate on a regular basis either. But those who do it and do it well have my respect for sure.

  16. I negotiated my first car after college. And then at flea markets I do like to haggle!
    Thanks for the chance.

  17. A teacher’s work is very much negotiation, with authority, but still negotiations . . . extensions on due dates, extra credit, second chances, a constant back and forth. I have walked unhappy students to guidance for help, or had them stop by after school for uninterrupted talks. After one such, I was worried that the young man still looked so upset. I stopped by the office, and the principal called home to defuse the very dangerous direction he was taking.
    We saved several who turned to pills, but as a crisis counselor warned on Donnybrook just last night, guns don’t leave room to rescue the loved one.

    1. Wow… this is on the same scale as law enforcement negotiators. Some management of smaller issues, but there are some here that are decidedly life and death. Thank you for all you do for your community!

  18. The cover is chilling. I can’t tell whether it’s a knife or a cell phone in the guy’s hand. In negotiations it’s key to creatte an atmosphere that facilitates discussion. As a volunteer mediator, I helped with the process of preventing homelessness. Keeping calm assists in the process.

    1. In this case, it’s a knife that is particularly important in the book. One that an inmate definitely should not have…

      Good for you for your work as a volunteer mediator. That is very important work!!

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