This true crime reads like a fiction in the best way possible. It’s chilling and horrific, and you keep asking yourself: why don’t more people know about Israel Keyes? The author does a marvelous job of pulling together FBI transcripts, as well as interviews the author—who is an investigative journalist by trade—conducted of the police, Israel’s mother and ex’s, and treats the victims with dignity. This book could have easily been written in more of that news article style with listing sources and full transcripts, and while that wouldn’t have lessened the horrifying way Keyes operated, it would have made the narrative dryer, less of a mystery and thriller, which some people may hate as it can feel like it’s fictionalizing someone’s very real pain, but I really enjoyed it. The story starts at the end, with the final victim that brought the police to apprehend Keyes, even though at the time, they had no clue the kind of monster that they had in their custody. From there, Callahan unravels who Keyes is, his potential victims, and how the prosecutor nearly ruined everything.
Keyes is a genius when it comes to getting away with his heinous acts. He gets off more on the hunt then the act of killing. He idolizes Ted Bundy, and reads things like Mindhunter so he can feel a sense of kinship with the other evil men the FBI profiles. He buries kill kits in multiple states, and travels in very round about ways to his stashes, and with his victims. It is his last, most brazen abduction in Alaska that gets him caught, a classic escalation of a serial killer who feels invincible. And the scary thing is, he was. One mistake. Just one, and he was caught. If he had “been smart”, as he calls it, the likelihood of Israel Keyes ever being caught, his victims ever being found, is slim. That is the most unnerving thing about this man, it was happenstance that brought him to justice, his victims found only because, once in custody, Keyes felt like talking, and wrongfully assumed that the FBI knew more than they did. He’s a diabolical monster that the Anchorage police, where he was in custody, were ill-equipped to deal with.
This is why you may never have heard of him even though he hints at about a dozen victims. They can’t even identify who his victims are, even though several missing people fit with Keyes travel itinerary, let alone find the bodies in order to properly investigate what truly happened to them. Keyes is happy to discuss the gruesome details of what he does to his victims, as long as the FBI can find them first. Reading the interview of Keyes gave me the shivers, I ached with the families of his confirmed victims, and was just as frustrated when, looking back, you see all the other mistakes Keyes made that would have led to his capture much sooner.
You either love or hate true crime; it’s definitely not for everyone as it deals with very real monsters doing heinous things to real people, but it’s one of those genres I really love, and get very picky about. It’s a fine balance between learning about these serial killers, and understanding their mindset without ever excusing their behavior even if they have tragic upbringings, and making sure that the victims aren’t forgotten in something that can really feel like fiction. I feel Callahan walks that line very well, telling us all she can of Keyes without ever excusing his behavior, railing on the missteps of the police and prosecution when needed, and praising those who recover the victims and give them back to their families. This is a haunting story of a real person told with a thriller vibe that was perfect for October, which is why I’m giving it 5 stars. I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in true crime, and learning more about this particular predator.
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