A deep dive into the twisted life of Israel Keyes, “a new kind of monster likely responsible for the greatest string of unsolved disappearances and murders in modern American history.”
New York Post critic at large Callahan cannot state with certainty how many murders Keyes committed, but the count seems to be at least 11 and is likely many more. He committed his final murder in Anchorage, Alaska, where he resided at the time with his daughter and an off-and-on girlfriend. Serial killers often commit their crimes close to home, inside a comfort zone, but as the author documents throughout this compelling narrative, little about Keyes fit the conventional serial-killer mold, including the fact that his crimes were scattered all over the country. She shares the sleuthing of law enforcement agents from the FBI, the Anchorage Police Department, and other state-level forces. Throughout the book, the law personnel obsessed by Keyes’ methods and grisly results come across as dedicated and largely talented, with the exception of the federal prosecutor, who had ultimate jurisdiction. Callahan portrays him as vain and tone-deaf, and his unwanted presence in the interrogation room undid much of the progress made in the case. The author builds the narrative around the kidnapping and murder of 18-year-old Samantha Koenig, who worked at an isolated coffee booth in Anchorage. Police had no clues for days, but the case eventually led to Keyes’ arrest due to outstanding detective work and uncharacteristic sloppiness by Keyes. In the latter chapters, Callahan explores Keyes’ unusual childhood, military service, and skills as a top-notch carpenter.
Although the details of the book are by definition lurid, the author admirably avoids a descent into journalistic sensationalism. Instead, she offers fascinating context about law enforcement investigative techniques and revelations about how a murderer can strike again and again without being detected for more than a decade.