Fans of true crime, hang onto your seats (and sanity) as you delve into the diabolical minds of these modern-day serial killers more intimately than ever before. No need to inject sensationalism here. These sharply written, detailed investigations keep to the facts, and that is where their worth and horror lie. Go beyond the fading headlines to deep inside prison walls, across small tables in windowless rooms and face-to-face with the men whose crimes made them monsters.
The prolific duo of John Douglas and Mark Olshaker (Law & Disorder and Mindhunter, which was adapted for Netflix) return in The Killer Across the Table. Douglas, a retired FBI agent who spent his career interviewing and profiling criminals, proves his expertise in exploring the minds and murderous behaviors of four notorious killers. The aim of these interviews, Douglas states, “is not to be a friend. The aim is not to be a foe. The aim is to target the truth.” Why did Joseph McGowan, a mild-mannered high school teacher, brutally rape a neighbor’s child delivering Girl Scout cookies? Would he do it again? Why did Donald Harvey, the hospital aid and “Angel of Death,” kill as many as 87 patients in his care? Through painstakingly conducted interviews, ugly but useful answers emerge.
“Meticulous” is one way to describe Israel Keyes’ pathologically inspired routines for kidnapping, torturing, murdering and disposing of a still-unknown number of victims. In American Predator, Maureen Callahan is just as focused and diligent in detailing the hunt that brought these killings to an end.
In February 2012, teenager Samantha Koenig disappeared from the coffee kiosk where she was working alone one night in Anchorage, Alaska. The local police investigation got off to a shaky start: Surveillance videos from nearby businesses went unexamined, while media leaks fueled public panic. The trail eventually led police all the way to Texas. Keyes, a business owner with no criminal record, was stopped for a questionable traffic violation. A bigger horror story soon unfolded.
The why, how, where and when of Keyes’ cross-country crimes are described so well by Callahan that the feeling of “you are here” can be unsettling, if not unnerving. But there’s one bright side. Keyes’ confessions helped law enforcement and behavioral scientists understand a serial killer’s mind in order to detect, track and prevent such predators.