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

“What Keyes was describing was the textbook progression, from childhood, of a sadist and a psychopath. Torturing and killing small animals, pets especially, is experimentation in controlling and killing another living thing for pure pleasure. It is practice, the last step before graduating to humans.”

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Viking | 2019

Filed Under: Gen X Serial Killer

Like so many who have read this true-crime book, I am shocked and confused as to how I’d never heard of Israel Keyes before. He does ask the police to keep his serial killing ways on the D.L. so that his family (particularly his daughter) never finds out what he did as a hobby, but like, dude – they were going to find out one way or another. You don’t kill three people (possibly eleven) and keep that a secret after you’ve been arrested.

It’s also kind of a strange concern to have considering he’s a psychopath. Like does he really care about his daughter’s emotional and mental well-being? I highly fucking doubt it. Most of these guys want to be famous. And it’s a real shame that even after death, we keep making Ted Bundy movies.

This book was a surprise in all the right ways for all the wrong reasons. Those reasons being serial murder and committing general criminal chaos. There is nothing better than being shocked and appalled while learning about a true-crime case for the first time. Well, there are lots of things better than that, but you know what I mean. If that makes me sound weird, so be it. I don’t know how else to explain it.

All of the –

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– and –

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– and –

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– that comes with reading some fucked up shit for the first time can’t be duplicated. Kind of like a first kill that serial killers keep trying to replicate. See what I did there? Comparing myself to a serial killer? Shit. Alright, this going off the rails. Let’s just start over.

Hello. My name is Krystin and I’m a very normal person who does not enjoy being shocked by fucked up things. Nice to meet you.

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…Okay, I can’t lie! None of that was true!! Except for my name. But like, I even barely meant the “nice to meet you” part. Feels good to be honest and get that lie off my chest. It was really starting to weigh on me.

Anyway, this is a super disturbing book – both because of the crimes and the backstory, but also because of that fucking douche canoe AUSA Kevin Feldis. Sorry, hated him. World’s Most Annoying Dumb-dumb.

Sure, maybe the author painted a biased view of him because the other investigators didn’t like the knob, but are all the other investigators collectively wrong? Or maybe is Feldis the common denominator, whether they’re talking shit or not?

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This book did what I love most about a good true-crime telling – it married the crimes with the investigation. It’s not all murder and psychopathy. It’s also following along as the investigators figure out the puzzle. And we get transcripts! I’m a slut for some transcripts, I’ll tell you that.

Israel Keyes had a fucked up life. He did lots of fucked up shit, most of which we’ll probably never know about. He got away with a lot, leaving many families with grief and unanswerable questions. He was clever and demented. Combined, those two things led to a lot of fucking terrible ideas being put into action. In that sense, yeah maybe he was the most meticulous serial killer of the 21st century.

On the other hand, the fact that he got away with it for so long seemed to greatly hinge on a lot of good luck and bad – like, fucking oblivious – police work. Or complacent police work. “Nothing like that would ever happen here” kind of police work.

But Keyes’ level of arrogance was fucking astronomical without a lot of reason. And the amount of control he had over the investigation into him, and how the cops were just not as smart as him and not able to outplay his chess moves – shit, you know he thought he was a fucking King.

But you ain’t, bro.

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Read this book if you’re into true crime. It actually almost reads like fiction, and that makes it even more unnerving. This was a real man doing these horrible things to real people. A man – born a year after my husband – who was killing all over the U.S. during a time most of us were aware and conscious and existing, and yet we (or most of us) heard not a word about it. But goddamn, make another Bundy doc, I guess.

Israel Keyes was a modern-day serial killer. We don’t really see that compared to the past – a time without Ring doorbells, internet and cameras everywhere and people who were like, “for sure I’ll hitchhike, there’s no danger in that!” And forensics science? Damn. You have to be slick now. And this guy was slick, a Gen X’er who had evolved with the times – and that’s terrifying. Makes you wonder how many more like him are out there. Because they are literally all getting away with murder right now. They are all committing the perfect crime right now. It’s only not the perfect crime after they get caught. Until then, technically they are all slicker, more evolved serial killers than Israel Keyes.

Andddddddd we’re spiralling…

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This book is a fast read, but packed with enough information to give you a clear picture of the killer, the cops, his capture and the investigation.

The only downer I can say is I would have liked more information about the victims and who they were in life, not just their stats in death.


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.

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