American Predator: The Hunt for the Most Meticulous Serial Killer of the 21st Century - Maureen Callahan

Goodreads Book Blurb:

Ted Bundy. John Wayne Gacy. Jeffrey Dahmer. The names of notorious serial killers are usually well-known; they echo in the news and in public consciousness. But most people have never heard of Israel Keyes, one of the most ambitious and terrifying serial killers in modern history. The FBI considered his behavior unprecedented. Described by a prosecutor as “a force of pure evil,” Keyes was a predator who struck all over the United States. He buried “kill kits”–cash, weapons, and body-disposal tools–in remote locations across the country. Over the course of fourteen years, Keyes would fly to a city, rent a car, and drive thousands of miles in order to use his kits. He would break into a stranger’s house, abduct his victims in broad daylight, and kill and dispose of them in mere hours. And then he would return home to Alaska, resuming life as a quiet, reliable construction worker devoted to his only daughter.

When journalist Maureen Callahan first heard about Israel Keyes in 2012, she was captivated by how a killer of this magnitude could go undetected by law enforcement for over a decade. And so began a project that consumed her for the next several years–uncovering the true story behind how the FBI ultimately caught Israel Keyes, and trying to understand what it means for a killer like Keyes to exist. A killer who left a path of monstrous, randomly committed crimes in his wake–many of which remain unsolved to this day.

American Predator is the ambitious culmination of years of interviews with key figures in law enforcement and in Keyes’s life, and research uncovered from classified FBI files. Callahan takes us on a journey into the chilling, nightmarish mind of a relentless killer, and to the limitations of traditional law enforcement.

Genres:

My Review:

solid, good read:
4/5

All of forensic criminal psychology is haunted by one question: Are psychopaths born or made? The debate is as old as Socrates, who believed that human beings were incapable of deliberate evil. Wrongdoing was born of ignorance or delusion. “There is only one good, knowledge,” he said, “and one evil, ignorance.”

An absolutely bloodcurdling biography following the abduction of Samantha Koenig in Alaska and the hunt for her kidnapper, Israel Keyes. A serial killer with an unknown number of victims, likely across several countries, Keyes was so meticulous the only real clues the feds found regarding his crimes are the ones he shared while in custody. He hid kill kits across the country, would drive for days through multiple states to hide his travel, and potentially even underwent cosmetic surgeries to ‘biohack’ his body to prevent leaving behind forensic evidence.

I had heard of Keyes, mostly from true crime podcasts, but his story is much harder to shake off while reading this book. American Predator was simultaneously hard to read and impossible to put down. The writing is captivating and the narrative is engaging but the subject matter is horrifying. There is so much information about Keyes and his life and his crimes within these pages, but at no point does the story feel bogged down by details. The timeline flows and I was on the edge of my seat, even though I knew where we were going and what was going to happen. And when I did have to put it down to go to bed, you can believe it was not a deep and restful sleep.

The most terrifying part of this book is the unknown. We will never know the true number of victims and crimes Keyes is responsible for. He was operating for a minimum of fourteen years if his confession to feds can be trusted, and he was only arrested for Koenig’s kidnapping because he became sloppy. They only found out he was a serial killer because he admitted it. The police and FBI bungled this case so terribly, from day one, it’s a miracle they caught him at all; the number of mistakes made and protocols broken is astounding. The potential that there is an unknown number of similar criminals, who just haven’t gotten sloppy and haven’t been caught, is my least favourite takeaway from this book.

I would highly recommend this book to any fans of true crime. The reporting and details are impeccable and the criminal is (hopefully) one-of-a-kind. Not recommended for light sleepers or those with vivid imaginations.

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