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

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

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 PDMost of us have never heard of Israel Keyes. But he is one of the most ambitious, meticulous serial killers of modern t...

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

  • Emily

    American Predator is by far one of the best true crime books I've read. It has a fascinating format - it starts with Israel Keyes' final victim and works backward. It sounds like this could get sloppy, but Maureen Callahan weaves it together so well. I sometimes have trouble reading true crime because of how dry it can be, but this book was addicting as hell (and not dry at all). The author tells a story, and doesn't just shout facts at you. I loved it, and I highly recommend picking up this boo

    American Predator is by far one of the best true crime books I've read. It has a fascinating format - it starts with Israel Keyes' final victim and works backward. It sounds like this could get sloppy, but Maureen Callahan weaves it together so well. I sometimes have trouble reading true crime because of how dry it can be, but this book was addicting as hell (and not dry at all). The author tells a story, and doesn't just shout facts at you. I loved it, and I highly recommend picking up this book if you need a new true crime book.

  • Stephanie

    True crime has been a guilty pleasure of mine for at least 30 years…I remember working in a public library and happily discovering the 364.1523 shelves (where even today I still browse, although TBH public library budgets often prevent a lot of trashy ephemeral reading material from making it to the shelves). These days, true crime has become a pop culture THING, and there’s no shortage of readily available books, movies, and podcasts dedicated to what used to be very much a niche market. I was

    True crime has been a guilty pleasure of mine for at least 30 years…I remember working in a public library and happily discovering the 364.1523 shelves (where even today I still browse, although TBH public library budgets often prevent a lot of trashy ephemeral reading material from making it to the shelves). These days, true crime has become a pop culture THING, and there’s no shortage of readily available books, movies, and podcasts dedicated to what used to be very much a niche market. I was very happy to receive an ARC of American Predator by Maureen Callahan from Penguin Group/Viking and NetGalley in exchange for this honest review.

    The blurb for this book says most of us “…have never heard of Israel Keyes. But he is one of the most ambitious, meticulous serial killers of modern time.” Possibly coincidence, but I felt like I was WAY more familiar with the crimes this unspeakably evil man committed than I might like, because very recently I had listened to two podcasts covering Keyes and his exploits: Generation Why and Crime Junkie. (I totally recommend Crime Junkie. Host Ashley Flowers does actual research, has an excellent presentation style, and adds relevant material including photos on her website). – and, knowing this book was likely to invade my dreams (which it did), I dove right in. (BTW, I don’t reveal spoilers for fiction – but true crime info is already out there, so there may be some facts revealed here. )

    Keyes lived (and died) in Alaska, where the book’s opening disappearance of teenage barista Samantha Koenig from her night shift work at a coffee kiosk sets off a hunt for her abductor that results in Keyes’ capture in Texas. Callahan writes well, and I loved her description of the Alaskan setting: “Never does this place feel so literally on the edge of the Earth, seesawing between the temporal world and some black chasm of the unknown phenomena, as the six months it sinks into near-total darkness. The isolation alone means anything goes. It is a rough place to be a woman.”

    The book has extensive detail about the investigation and interrogation of Keyes, and reveals the incredibly serendipitous nature of his arrest. What set him apart from many criminals was his incredible planning, including scouting out locations for future crimes and burying a “kit” including things like weapons, duct tape, cable ties, gloves, etc. which he could return (sometimes years later) and dig up to have ready to go. This allowed him to fly in to a town previously scouted, commit his crimes and vanish without a trace.

    Although there were a few awkward sentences (“Keyes was wrong to think a burner phone can’t be tracked but right about that.” – About WHAT?), the writing is good. This isn’t some quickie exploitative TC book, dashed off to cash in on a currently popular topic. Ms. Callahan’s years of experience as a writer and editor for the New York Post with a focus on popular culture is perhaps part of why she can cover a grisly topic and present it in a way that will likely appeal to a general audience.

    The story is unsettling, partly because there were so many ways the agencies fighting over who got credit and who got to take the lead on investigating/prosecuting totally screwed things up. It’s kind of a miracle he was in jail, and that he confessed to several crimes…but it seems there were countless other incidents he was involved in, and we will never know the extent of his crimes. It’s also unsettling to think he lived with his daughter and girlfriend, committed grisly murder literally in his own backyard, and his friends, family and neighbors had NO CLUE that he was basically two people. His MO included the burial of his “kill kits” noted above (cash, weapons, and body-disposal tools) in remote locations across the country. Seriously, how creepy is it that over the span of fourteen years, he would repeatedly fly to a random city, rent a car, and drive thousands of miles in order to use those kits? He would break into the house of a complete stranger, sometimes abducting victims in broad daylight, kill and dispose of them in a few hours, then calmly return home and resume his “other persona” as a reliable construction worker who was lovingly devoted to his young daughter. (As Ashley Flowers’ co-host Brit would say, “Full. Body. Chills.”

    To this day, so much of his activity remains a total mystery. Pretty much all we know of his exploits is what he chose to reveal during his interrogation, and that only happened due to a fluke traffic stop in Texas. It’s also odd that “…forty-five thousand pages of case files remain unreleased by the Department of Justice,” and that the circumstances of his death are so clouded in mystery (where did he get razor blades, and why did the guards not notice the blood flowing out of his cell the night he died?). For true crime fans in general and anyone interested in Israel Keyes in particular, five stars.

  • Karen Abbott

    Impeccably researched, gripping, chilling--I couldn't put it down (and didn't sleep for days!)

  • Brandon

    American Predator is the story of Alaskan serial killer Israel Keyes, his crimes and how he was captured.

    I was chatting with a friend when the subject of what I was currently reading came up. I mentioned this book and I began thinking about why I’m always drawn to true crime – specifically serial killers/mass murderers. I certainly don’t admire them nor do I particularly care why they do what they do. Then I realized that I like to see how they inevitably slip up; what is the tiny mistake they m

    American Predator is the story of Alaskan serial killer Israel Keyes, his crimes and how he was captured.

    I was chatting with a friend when the subject of what I was currently reading came up. I mentioned this book and I began thinking about why I’m always drawn to true crime – specifically serial killers/mass murderers. I certainly don’t admire them nor do I particularly care why they do what they do. Then I realized that I like to see how they inevitably slip up; what is the tiny mistake they make that lands them in prison. American Predator is one of those books that spotlights just such a mistake. In fact, it was a whole baker’s dozen of mistakes.

    In late 2012, writer Maureen Callahan penned an article for the NY Post about a recently deceased killer who for years, managed to fly under the radar of authorities, travelling across the United States taking the lives of complete strangers. Shortly after the story’s publication, Maureen felt there was a deeper story that needed to be told. After years of investigative research, Callahan produces a comprehensive look at Israel Keyes.

    The book begins with what would be the downfall of Keyes, the kidnapping of Samantha Koenig – a young woman in Anchorage, Alaska. What follows is an unbelievable series of errors on the part of Keyes that somehow goes undetected by authorities – it was almost like Keyes was hoping to be caught. Once in police custody following a traffic stop in Texas, a series of interrogations and negotiations with Keyes will uncover his web of death cast over the entirety of the United States.

    Pieced together through hundreds of hours of interviews with those who worked the case as well as those close to Keyes himself, author Maureen Callahan tells the story of a meticulous murderer who somehow managed to go undetected for years. As for how Keyes is portrayed, he comes off as a man doing an impression of a serial killer. I don’t mean to make light of the seriousness of his crimes, but he comes across as such a.. loser. He sits there and quotes lines from Hannibal Lecter movies, idolises Ted Bundy and rubs himself through his pants while giving cryptic clues to a team of investigators desperate to uncover his many murders. I’m not saying I’d prefer some sort of “honorable” slaughterer because such a thing doesn’t exist – it just seems fascinating to me how he managed to be so successful while coming off as such a total amateur.

    Subject’s character aside, I thought Callahan did a great job producing a compelling account of a modern day murderer and his ability to operate so smoothly in a post 9/11 world. American Predator is a solid read that should satisfy true crime aficionados looking for insight into a relatively unknown subject.

  • Glenda

    4.5 stars

    Bundy and Bianchi really can't hold a candle to this one.

    American Predator looks into the crimes of a somewhat unknown modern-day serial killer named Israel Keyes. The author draws on interviews and legal recordings to paint a picture of a true sociopath. While there is not the drawn out background and legalese-type writing that authors like Ann Rule are known for, I give kudos to author Maureen Callahan for writing an honest narrative with the information she was given (and letting us

    4.5 stars

    Bundy and Bianchi really can't hold a candle to this one.

    American Predator looks into the crimes of a somewhat unknown modern-day serial killer named Israel Keyes. The author draws on interviews and legal recordings to paint a picture of a true sociopath. While there is not the drawn out background and legalese-type writing that authors like Ann Rule are known for, I give kudos to author Maureen Callahan for writing an honest narrative with the information she was given (and letting us know what info she was not given, which I find very interesting).

    I remember hearing about Israel Keyes after his death. There seemed to be have been several people in my small mountain town who "knew" him or remembered some creepy dude who fit the description. Was it really him? Who knows. It wouldn't surprise me if he was involved in the deaths of a mom and daughter on a hiking trail in the Cascades, nor would it surprise me if he was hanging out at my favorite dive bar outside Mt Rainier. What I appreciated about this book is that there was no speculation, unlike local lore. The author did her due diligence and wrote an interesting and informative story. I just wish she could have had access to more documents to make this a truly awesome read.

    A huge thank you to Viking for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

  • Chandra Claypool (wherethereadergrows)

    I used to scour the internet to read about all the killers out there. Kids, women, partners, serial... it didn't matter - if it was true crime, I was reading about it. I can't imagine the hours I put into all of this. FASCINATING. There's no looking past the fact that these people are diabolical and mostly geniuses. Put into this, the wrong law enforcement person put in charge of interviewing them and all kinds of things can go haywire. As manipulative as these killers are, they surely know thei

    I used to scour the internet to read about all the killers out there. Kids, women, partners, serial... it didn't matter - if it was true crime, I was reading about it. I can't imagine the hours I put into all of this. FASCINATING. There's no looking past the fact that these people are diabolical and mostly geniuses. Put into this, the wrong law enforcement person put in charge of interviewing them and all kinds of things can go haywire. As manipulative as these killers are, they surely know their way around their words and feeding off the body language and words of the people surrounding them.

    How did I never hear of Israel Keyes?! I'm baffled that I hadn't heard of him until now. Reading about what he did to his victims was crazy. Pure, absolute bat shit. This book definitely doesn't read as "dry" as some true crime books can. Although it did lull in some areas for me, the story behind Keyes and his random victims was still as utterly fascinating as others I have read... if not more. I even looked up pictures on the internet and WOAH. You guys - if you get the chance, and true crime speaks to you, then definitely make sure to do this before, during or after this read. Or all three!

    A definite must read for true crime lovers.

  • Cassie-Traveling Sister-

    True crime is a topic that has always interested me. What goes on in someone’s mind that causes them to perform such brutal crimes? American Predator was exactly the book for me and I found myself wondering how is it that I have never heard of the serial killer Israel Keyes? Israel Keyes a seemingly normal guy living in anchorage Alaska who was a construction worker and no one suspected him being pure evil! How did this man get away with murder well let me explain! This man would fly to a city r

    True crime is a topic that has always interested me. What goes on in someone’s mind that causes them to perform such brutal crimes? American Predator was exactly the book for me and I found myself wondering how is it that I have never heard of the serial killer Israel Keyes? Israel Keyes a seemingly normal guy living in anchorage Alaska who was a construction worker and no one suspected him being pure evil! How did this man get away with murder well let me explain! This man would fly to a city rent a car and drive thousands of miles to bury his kill kits this is what set him apart from other killers. He did a ton of advance planning. His kill kits included weapons, duct tape, cable ties gloves and so much more. When he buries these kill kits sometimes he wouldn’t return for them for years, he would dig them up and have his way with whomever. What scares me is that most of his victims will never be found due to Israel never leaving evidence. The book begins with the disappearance of Samantha from a coffee kiosk. My heart was breaking for her father who told the police she would never just take off. This man was a creepy mastermind with his kill kits buried all over the country, and his crimes which didn’t matter who the victim were , as long as his little plan in his head worked out. The author did an amazing job taking you on the journey of finally capturing this murder. This did not feel like a true crime book but a thriller. It just shows you sometimes you never know the person next you and real life can be scarier than fiction .

  • Bonnie Brody

    I finished this book last night and remained in a state of terror for a few hours. I made sure all my doors were locked, my security alarm was on, and the outside lights to the house were off. True crime books occasionally interest me but I was very anxious to read this one because I'd lived in Alaska for over 40 years and had never heard of Israel Keyes. How could this be possible, given the extent and magnitude of his crimes?

    Maureen Callahan does an excellent job of analyzing this case, from

    I finished this book last night and remained in a state of terror for a few hours. I made sure all my doors were locked, my security alarm was on, and the outside lights to the house were off. True crime books occasionally interest me but I was very anxious to read this one because I'd lived in Alaska for over 40 years and had never heard of Israel Keyes. How could this be possible, given the extent and magnitude of his crimes?

    Maureen Callahan does an excellent job of analyzing this case, from the 2012 Anchorage kidnapping of Samantha Koenig, at which time the FBI, Department of Justice, and Anchorage Police Department first became aware of Keyes' existence, through the multiple years, locations and crimes that Keyes was involved with. She explores the politics of the case and the fight for control of Keyes' interviews. She has a good handle on Alaskan in-fighting: cover your ass, leave no paperwork, and don't let the left hand know what the right hand is doing. Basically, she understands the power structure in Alaska and how that led to multiple mess-ups and mis-steps as the investigation progressed from the belief that Keyes was responsible for one kidnapping and murder to the realization that he had preyed on, and killed, others throughout the United States over multiple years. Keyes was a serial killer, the likes of which Alaska had never had before.

    Israel Keyes had been kidnapping and killing for decades before he was caught in Texas for the kidnapping and murder of Samantha Koenig. Not a lot is known about his personal history but he exhibited two well-established early indicators of psychopathy: sadism toward animals and arson. He came from a family that lived off the grid and, for at least a while, were part of a white supremacy cult in Idaho. He was one of 9 siblings and expected to help his father and mother with their work. There was no television, internet, magazines, or indicators of the modern world in his home when Keyes was growing up. He was home-schooled by his mother and his parents were nomadic religious hippies who would join various cults and then move the family from location to location. Each child in the Keyes family was born at home with no birth certificate ever attained. Israel's parents didn't believe in doctors or hospitals so all ailments, big or small, were dealt with homeopathically at home.

    The FBI and the Anchorage Police Department became aware, shortly after picking Keyes up and interviewing him, that he was a serial killer, and a very meticulous one who left no evidence behind. He admitted to killing people at multiple locations around the U.S. Issues such as whether serial killers are born that way or made into monsters, are explored. While no exact proof of what creates them is provided, it is agreed that they are evil. Not all psychopaths are serial killers but all serial killers are psychopaths. Keyes loved hurting people and animals from an early age and derived sexual pleasure from going to more extremes with each kill.

    The author, Maureen Callahan, has done a meticulous job exploring the case of Israel Keyes, and of acknowledging that some of the evidence against him has yet to be released. Why this is, is unknown. I had to have a strong stomach to read this book but I give Ms. Callahan credit. Despite there being multiple people involved with this case, she was able to create individual personalities and unique characters for each one. Perhaps Keyes is the protagonist of this book but Alaska, 'The Last Frontier', has its own place on the walkway of stars and I believe that Ms. Callahan has captured the spirit of individualism, libertarianism, and uniqueness of Alaska's spirit and people.

  • Marialyce

    When choosing a book to read, Jan and I share curiosity into the psyche of people, especially those who seem to defy what it means to be human, to be empathetic, to be a functioning member of society. For those who go against everything we think is normal human behavior, the psychopath, we look to find the motivations. Like the author, Maureen Callahan, we want to know they why, the how could this have happened, and most importantly can we ever know people we think we do? We chose American Preda

    When choosing a book to read, Jan and I share curiosity into the psyche of people, especially those who seem to defy what it means to be human, to be empathetic, to be a functioning member of society. For those who go against everything we think is normal human behavior, the psychopath, we look to find the motivations. Like the author, Maureen Callahan, we want to know they why, the how could this have happened, and most importantly can we ever know people we think we do? We chose American Predator as a book to share.

    "Open your trembling flower, or your petals I'll crush,"

    I, for one, had never heard of Israel Keyes and yet reading this true crime book, I came away wondering why? He was able to commit crimes in a manner that was brazen and yet as he traveled seeking victims, no one seemed to connect him to any crimes. He was a long term planner, depositing things such as duct tape, guns, shovels, and rope buried in various parts of the country waiting to be dug up and used when he needed it. Keyes was a patient man and his thrill came not only in the death of his victims but also in the planning of their deaths. His victims seemed to be random, bad time bad place, and he would grab his victims in a cool calculated manner rape and kill the people at times dismembering them and walk away.

    Where will you go, you clever little worm, if you bleed your host dry?

    His success if you want to call it that was achieved through traveling and it was his trek through state after state that perhaps was the key to his depravity. There was many connections that the FBI was able to make, but unfortunately, they could never prove for Keyes played a cat and mouse game with the authorities pursuing his self worth in that he considered himself smarter than all others.

    "You may have been free, you loved living your lie, fate had its own scheme crushed like a bug you still die."

    He was ultimately caught when it was found that he killed, raped, and dismembered a girl working at a coffee stand in Alaska. He confessed readily but then lead the authorities on a chase to find other victims of this psychopath. Unfortunately, Keyes committed suicide before revealing the location and names of what is believed to be his countless other victims.

    Absolutely, this was a bone chilling story that makes one really realize that you really don't know who it is that stands next to you.

    "Land of the free, land of the lie, land of the scheme, Americanize."

    Thank you to Maureen Callahan, Viking Books and Edelweiss for a copy of this most frightening book.

    To see our duo reviews and some additional information you can go here:

  • Karen Wright

    This book does nothing but show how a serial killer is glorified in what he did, by highlighting his crimes and letting us know how his sick mind worked.

    The book is confusing from the start as it begins at the end. Then the author digs up old transcripts with the killer's own words and demonstrates how he manipulated law enforcement over and over again. It also shines a light on the ineptness of the FBI and law enforcement in handling cases like these because some of the individuals want the gl

    This book does nothing but show how a serial killer is glorified in what he did, by highlighting his crimes and letting us know how his sick mind worked.

    The book is confusing from the start as it begins at the end. Then the author digs up old transcripts with the killer's own words and demonstrates how he manipulated law enforcement over and over again. It also shines a light on the ineptness of the FBI and law enforcement in handling cases like these because some of the individuals want the glory for handling the case and perhaps being the one to solve it.

    The more I read, the angrier I became at myself that I was reading about this worthless human being whose sorry life is documented and showcased in a book. He got just what he wanted -- attention and his 15 minutes of fame.

    This book was solidly annoying. My cousin was killed by serial killer Joseph Paul Franklin, who is suspected of at least 13 killings. Maybe this has jaded my ability to be objective in my assessment. He was another creep who got away with murder and wasn't charged for most of the heartache he created as he terrorized the nation.

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