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

(Last Updated On: July 7, 2019)

Incredibly well written and haunting, this account of the hunt for Israel Keynes is a must-read for true crime fans.

About the Book

Publisher: Viking  |  Release Date: July 2, 2019  |  Pages: 304
Genre: True Crime, Serial Killers  |  Format: eBook  |  Source: Publisher via Edelweiss

American Predator by Maureen Callahan covercoverA 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 PD

Most of us have never heard of Israel Keyes. But he is one of the most ambitious, meticulous serial killers of modern time. The FBI considered his behavior unprecedented. Described by a prosecutor as “a force of pure evil,” he was a predator who struck all over the United States. He buried “kill kits”–cash, weapons, and body-disposal tools–in remote locations across the country and over the course of fourteen years, would fly to a city, rent a car, and drive thousands of miles in order to use his kits. He would break into a stranger’s house, abduct his victims in broad daylight, and kill and dispose of them in mere hours. And then he would return home, resuming life as a quiet, reliable construction worker devoted to his only daughter.

When journalist Maureen Callahan first heard about Israel Keyes in 2012, she was captivated by how a killer of this magnitude could go undetected by law enforcement for over a decade. And so began a project that consumed her for the next several years–uncovering the true story behind how the FBI ultimately caught Israel Keyes, and trying to understand what it means for a killer like Keyes to exist. A killer who left a path of monstrous, randomly committed crimes in his wake–many of which remain unsolved to this day.

American Predator is the ambitious culmination of years of on-the-ground interviews with key figures in law enforcement and in Keyes’s life, and research uncovered from classified FBI files. Callahan takes us on a journey into the chilling, nightmarish mind of a relentless killer, and the limitations of traditional law enforcement, in one of America’s most isolated environments–Alaska–when faced with a killer who defies all expectation and categorization.

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My Review

I devoured this book in one disturbing sitting. The writing is gripping and captivating, drawing me in from the author’s note at the beginning of the book. I don’t read a lot of true crime, but I grew up watching Unsolved Mysteries, CSI, and Criminal Minds, so when my friend Jess @ Fiction No Chaser screamed to me about this one, I had to read it myself!

“The subject of this book was unlike anything the FBI had ever encountered. He was a new kind of monster, likely responsible for the greatest string of unsolved disappearances and murders in modern history. And you have probably never heard of him.”

At the risk of sounding morbid, I know a lot about serial killers and was surprised that I had never heard of this guy. The book is very well researched and is based on hundreds of hours of interviews with the investigators involved. I don’t read a lot of true crime so I am not sure if this is typical of the genre, but American Predator reads like an episode of Criminal Minds – it is an incredibly engaging read.

The book begins with Israel Keyes’ last crime, Samantha’s disappearance from the coffee hut that she worked in (with people around!) and follows the search for her and who was responsible. From the friction between local police and the FBI to a grandstanding prosecutor, it was really heartbreaking to read about the various missteps in the investigation.

“Payne always likened the first meeting with a suspect to telling an author his own story. And, of course, only the author knows how that story ends.”

The second half of the book follows the countless interviews that investigators conducted with Keyes as it became clear that this wasn’t his first crime. The descriptions of his crimes are very detailed. Massive content warnings for rape, murder, and dismemberment.

If you are a fan of true crime, American Predator is a must-read. I knew I was reading nonfiction, but it almost feels like a thriller when reading it. Callahan’s writing is beautiful, descriptive, and past-paced, sucking you in until the last page is turned.

CONTENT WARNINGS: dismemberment, murder, rape

eARC provided by the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for my honest review. Quotations are taken from an uncorrected proof and subject to change upon final publication.

spacer_wLet’s go on another adventure together!


  1. Jinjer

    July 7, 2019 at 1:21 PM

    In one disturbing sitting!!!!! I love that! LOL

    I’d never heard of this guy but definitely sounds like a must read for me. Thanks for the Goodreads link. That was handy to take me directly to the book and place a hold via my Chrome Library extension. ETA is 7 weeks. LOL

    1. Kal

      July 9, 2019 at 8:36 PM

      IT WAS A DISTURBING SITTING, ahaha! I was so creeped out but couldn’t put the damn book down.

      I also hadn’t heard of the guy, but once you read it you will understand a bit why. I hope your library hold comes in quickly and you “enjoy” the book as much as I did!

  2. fictionnochaser

    July 8, 2019 at 5:36 AM

    So glad you liked this! And I’m not sorry for my creepy recommendations.

    1. Kal

      July 9, 2019 at 8:52 PM

      Don’t even think about apologizing, I dug it. KEEP THEM CREEPY RECS COMING!

  3. Christine

    July 8, 2019 at 11:24 AM

    OMG! Your blog is gorgeous, and I just love all of the work that you have put into it!

    This book sounds terrifying AF!!! I might have to pass on it since horror/disturbing isn’t my thing, but I loved your review.

    I can’t even do the exploding rats on Stranger Things without having nightmares…

    1. Kal

      July 9, 2019 at 8:59 PM

      Thank you so much, Christine!!! I honestly STILL can’t stop staring at the new layout, I am so pleased with how it turned out.
      This definitely isn’t for everyone. While I enjoy Criminal Minds, it was kind of hard because I knew it was a true story. So sad.

  4. waytoofantasy

    July 9, 2019 at 6:20 PM

    Sounds like a super engaging read!

    1. Kal

      July 10, 2019 at 8:46 PM

      It definitely was!

  5. Krisha🌸

    July 9, 2019 at 11:56 PM

    This sounds like such a good read and you’re review might have convinced me to give it a try 😊💛

    1. Kal

      July 10, 2019 at 8:53 PM

      I hope you “enjoy” it as much as I did! (It is so weird to say “enjoy this nonfiction about a murderer” lol)

  6. TheCaffeinatedReader

    July 10, 2019 at 3:05 AM

    I’m partially distracted because I’m so proud to know someone with such a pretty blog, but also. DAMN IT KAL. MY TBR DOES NOT ENJOY HAVING ANOTHER BOOK ADDED! I love disturbing reads! I can’t say no!

    1. Kal

      July 11, 2019 at 8:36 PM

      BAHH Haley you are too good to me!!! And I reward that goodness with all the book recommendations for your TBR goodness! This one is definitely disturbing, so you will be pleased.

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