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

Review

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

True to its blurbs, AMERICAN PREDATOR is a terrifying book, certainly the creepiest I’ve read in a long time. For anyone with even a passing interest in true crime, Maureen Callahan’s chilling account of little-known serial killer Israel Keyes, one of the most cunning and diabolical murderers to have ever stalked the United States, is a must-read. I was glued to the pages, staying up way past my bedtime out of fear, anxiety and sheer anticipation. I needed to find out what horrible thing would happen next, and Keyes was all too ready to deliver.

The book’s title labels its subject “the most meticulous,” which at first glance may seem awkward when describing such an awful individual, but it’s really the only way to characterize Keyes, whose fastidiousness allowed him to operate without detection for over a decade. He was a long-term planner, driving and flying thousands of miles across the country to bury “kill kits” containing weapons, money and body-disposal tools. Months or even years later he would return, digging them up for use in the unknown number of abductions, home invasions, rapes and murders he committed.

"I was captivated by the book and would recommend it to any true-crime aficionado who needs yet another reason to stay afraid of the dark."

An ex-military man raised outside of society with no social security number, Keyes left as few traces at his crime scenes as he did in his public life. Although he was finally caught in 2012, his capture yielded far more questions than answers. He killed himself in his jail cell, ensuring that there would never be a satisfying conclusion to the dark enigma that was Israel Keyes.

Callahan opens her book with a by-the-minute narrative of the kidnapping of Samantha Koenig, Keyes’ last confirmed victim and the key to his eventual downfall. Though the writing is neither lyrical nor enlightening, it hooks with its simple honesty, which had me frantically turning the pages. This part reads almost like a novel and is just as gripping as any fictional thriller, but its veracity makes it even more disturbing. Callahan smoothly tours the reader through Samantha’s disappearance and Keyes’ eventual arrest, beefing up the account with details about the characters’ backstories as well as her own theoretical moral quandaries. This narrative strategy does the trick for most of the book, but as I neared the end, it began to feel more and more like filler for a story that unavoidably contains gaping holes.

While AMERICAN PREDATOR is descriptive and informative, there’s really a dearth of facts and evidence available for this case. Callahan states her frustration time and time again at much of the source material being classified or otherwise unavailable. Given such little information to go off of, she paints a decent enough picture, but ultimately it feels bare-bones. This failing can’t be entirely the fault of the writer, who clearly has done her research. However, a deeper dive into the political intrigue and corruption swirling around Keyes would have strengthened the book. That it reads like something out of “The X-Files” means that it’s special, a once-in-a-lifetime kind of story, so not further investigating or at least clarifying the hair-raising implications it brings to the table feels not just unsatisfactory but lazy.

Still, I was captivated by the book and would recommend it to any true-crime aficionado who needs yet another reason to stay afraid of the dark.

Reviewed by Alex Bowditch on July 26, 2019

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

  • Publication Date: July 2, 2019
  • Genres: Nonfiction, True Crime
  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Viking
  • ISBN-10: 052542864X
  • ISBN-13: 9780525428640