Subtitle: The Hunt for the Most Meticulous Serial Killer of the 21st Century
Israel Keyes was a serial killer active all across the US during the 2000s, before he was caught in early 2012. He was meticulous and calculating, and so far under the radar that no one connected the crimes he committed to a single person, much less to him, until after his capture. The official description of this book goes much more into detail about Keyes’ methodology – his travels, his kill-kits, the way he stalked his randomized victims – but I’m just going to say this: This book is an incomplete look at a man about whom so much but so little is known, and some speculation of the damage he might have left in his wake.
I’m iffy about true crime. I love shows like Unsolved Mysteries, that focus on trying to find answers and get resolution for folks. True crime that showcases forensics, search methodology, and how law enforcement found and captured the perpetrator is far better in my mind than true crime that glorifies the crime or the criminal. I don’t get the romance of serial killers, but I am interested in the psychological aspects of crime, mostly because I’m interested in psychology/sociology generally. I’m also very turned off by exploitative true crime. Respect for victims and their families is of utmost importance, which is why I tend to gravitate toward either historical true crime or, again, shows like Unsolved Mysteries, where families are asking for help. Point is, I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect from this book when I picked it up. The subtitle indicated that it was more about the search than the crimes.
The first portion of this book is about Keyes’ last victim, who eventually led to his capture. At this point, it mostly highlighted the utter ineptitude of Anchorage law enforcement. Eventually, Keyes was caught in Texas and transported back to Alaska, where interrogations began. This continued to highlight both ineptitude and the beginnings of egotism and corruption throughout both the police and legal system. At this point, the book veered off in three directions: Keyes’ life history (especially childhood), a couple crimes that Keyes confessed to in interviews with police, and a bunch of suspected crimes that he didn’t confess to. Almost all of the latter 2/3rds to 3/4ths of the book were based on Keyes’ interviews over the months between his capture and suicide.
I will say this – the book didn’t glorify or romanticize Keyes. However, because so little information about his crimes has ever been confirmed, the book necessarily had to focus on Keyes himself. So we hear a lot about his horrible childhood, his early sociopathic tendencies, his struggles with religion and sexuality, etc etc etc. There was so much internal politicking in the law enforcement offices that the interviews with Keyes were largely bungled and incompetent after the early days, when Keyes readily confessed to another crime – the only other one that can be almost-definitively tied back to him. Everything else in the book is repetitive speculation combined with the posturing of inept cops/lawyers.
In the end, I’m not sure I really understood the point of the book. Yeah, it’s suspected that Keyes was this serial killer tied to about a dozen bodies, but literally only one was confirmed, with two others highly probable. The rest is speculation, some solid, some very farfetched. And in the absence of any concrete information, this is just a story about a fucked up guy who did a fucked up thing and then claimed that he did far more than he would actually admit. Mixed with a story about how law enforcement ranged from inept to corrupt. And all of that is just as easily, and more quickly, obtained through a read of Keyes’ Wikipedia page.
Performance: This book was narrated by Amy Landon, who did an excellent job. Honestly, I think her performance kept me more interested in the book than I would have been otherwise.