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The best nonfiction book of 2019: American Predator

Maureen Callahan’s chilling new book on a little-known serial killer

Callahan details how Keyes evaded law enforcement.
Photo courtesy of Random House

He’s one of America’s most prolific and horrifying serial killers, yet only a few know his name—until investigative journalist Maureen Callahan released American Predator, that is.  

His name is Israel Keyes. His victim count is unknowable. He evaded detection for decades, even with the serial killer classic repetitive M.O.  

What makes Keyes unlike the more known serial killers is how seemingly normal he was. He wasn’t a loner but a family man. He was an avid true crime reader, even. 

But Keyes also was elusive. He had no property records. His family barely knew of his travels, other than his tendency to take wandering routes from point A to point B. He did not have a social security card, even when serving in the military. 

Callahan starts at the end for Keyes. In Anchorage, Alaska, a high school girl working in a coffee stand goes missing. Security footage shows a calm man guiding her out of the booth and into a truck—the scene so calm that investigators thought the kidnapping was faked. 

Through tracking the girl’s ATM card down to Arizona and Texas, Keyes was caught. That’s when confession after confession came forth, and the horrors began. 

Callahan spent years conducting thorough interviews with everyone involved in Keyes’ story, from original first responders on the kidnapping to FBI agents called in to work the cases in the lower 48 states. 

In American Predator, Callahan uses their first-hand experiences of discovering Keyes’ connections to unsolvable cold cases across the country to reel readers in. The details of his kill kits and meticulous hunting tactics send shivers down the spine yet begs the pages to be turned. 

It’s informative without being pretentious, terrifying yet absolutely riveting.  American Predator does more than tell a scary story. It gives true evil a face and a name.  

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