Tuesday, January 14, 2020

American Predator by Maureen Callahan

American Predator by Maureen Callahan
Release Date - July 2, 2019
Publisher Website - Penguin Random House Canada
Publisher Social Media - Twitter
Pages -  285 pages
My Rating - 4/5
**borrowed from library**

Here is the Goodreads synopsis
A gripping tour de force of investigative journalism that takes us  deep into the investigation behind one of the most frightening and enigmatic serial killers in modern American history, and into the ranks of a singular American police force: the Alaska PD.

Most of us have never heard of Israel Keyes. But he is one of the most ambitious, meticulous serial killers of modern time. The FBI considered his behavior unprecedented. Described by a prosecutor as "a force of pure evil", he 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, and over the course of fourteen years, 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, 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 on-the-ground interviews with key figures in law enforcement, and in Keyes' life, and research uncovered from classified FBI files. Callahan takes us on a journey into the chilling, nightmarish mind of a relentless killer, and the limitations of traditional law enforcement, in one of America's most isolated environments - Alaska - when faced with a killer who defies all expectation and categorization.
The first thing I feel you should know before diving into American Predator is that it will enrage you. It both tells you everything and nothing about serial killer Israel Keyes while providing a quick and well researched read.

The frustrating part about anything written about Israel Keyes is that so much about him and his crimes remains unknown. He was arrogant, smug, and felt he was smarter than the people investigating his crimes. He refused to answer questions and was often vague when he did answer anything. His suicide ensured that many lingering questions will be that much harder to answer and that some may never have answers at all. The amount of unknown details in this case, as someone whose interest in true crime stems from the whys, only made me more infuriated at an already exasperating Keyes.

The investigation into this case is, at times, mishandled. The interrogation being the main aspect that fell apart. Other elements showcase brilliant police work that ended up catching an evasive killer. Certain things allowed for Israel to make the investigators look ridiculous which only served to add to his arrogance. He, not them, had control of the interrogation. He gave only what he was willing to provide, and those asking the questions made it easy for him to do so. To be fair, Keyes really had no interest in negotiating with those tasked with finding out what happened. He wasn't looking for fame and saw no reason to make their jobs easier. This fact, combined with some political jockeying by certain investigators, made for a unsuccessful interrogation. There was great police work here, but it was often hindered by others and left those who were competent with their hands tied and scrambling to do the best they could.

Maureen Callahan's writing and pacing makes you feel like you are following the investigation in real time. You're learning about the various crimes committed by Keyes at the same as law enforcement. By the time that Keyes is apprehended the reader feels a tight tension that really doesn't get any relief from the tense, and rage inducing, interrogation. She also makes the most out of what is known about the case. She does her best to provide a detailed accounting of events but you can sense her frustration as times that so much still remains unanswered.

Much is often made about the perpetrator rather than the victims. The killer gets the book written about them, or a Netflix documentary. Even the way Keyes is talked about feeds into this narrative of spotlighting the killer. There are only a few known victims in this particular case but the author is careful to provide details about who they were and made it so they were not just a footnote of a name in the book. The focus is on Keyes, but not just on him.

American Predator is a bone-chilling account of a serial killer who not only was a  meticulous planner, but one capable of flying under the radar for years. The lingering question, thanks to his extensive travel, of how many victims remain unknown is what I found most haunting. I highly recommend this for those with an interest in true crime. Just expect to be both horrified, and angry when you finish.

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