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Monday 26 October 2020

✍ Devil in The Darkness: The True Story of Serial Killer Israel Keyes - J.T. Hunter

Genre: True Crime
Published by Pedialaw Publishing
Number of pages: 304
My rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ I really liked it 
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Devil in The Darkness: The True Story of Serial Killer Israel Keyes
|| Synopsis || Review || About the Author ||

"He was a hard-working small business owner, an Army veteran, an attentive lover, and a doting father. But he was also something more, something sinister.

A master of deception, he was a rapist, arsonist, bank robber, and a new breed of serial killer, one who studied other killers to perfect his craft. In multiple states, he methodically buried kill-kits containing his tools of murder years before returning and putting them to use.

Viewing the entire country as his hunting grounds, he often flew to distant locations where he rented cars and randomly selected his victims. Such were the methods and madness of serial killer Israel Keyes. Such were the demands of the Devil in the Darkness.

This book is the first detailed account ever published about Israel Keyes. It contains exclusive personal information about this frightening serial killer gleaned from extensive interviews with his former fiancee."

"Devil in The Darkness: The True Story of Serial Killer Israel Keyes is the third True Crime work published by J.T. Hunter, who has extensive experience in criminal law, investigative techniques, and "is also a college professor in Florida where his teaching interests focus on the intersection of criminal psychology, law, and literature".  This is the second book I have read by this author, on the back of his latest release, 'Tortured With Love', and it didn't disappoint; however, this story is a lot more focused on the feelings of the people involved rather than just on the killers and their deeds.

Once again the author takes us through the events in as much of a chronological and logical order as it is possible given the events presented, based on extensive research which includes official court filings, FBI and local police interviews and evidence, as well as interviews carried out by the author with close family and friends of the known victims and of Israel Keyes, and with law enforcement officers, including Detective George Murtie from the Essex Police Department (a full list of sources is given).  

The third person narrative is tight, and concise, whilst at the same time providing all relevant facts and insights into the investigations, the crimes, and how they affected all parties directly involved, as well as the local communities.  At times this appears odd, as we are presented with intimate thoughts of the victims whilst the crimes were being committed - how could the author possibly know those with any degree of accuracy? It is my understanding that these insights come from the direct interviews the author had with people who were extremely close to the victims, such as Sam Koenig's father, her boyfriends, colleagues, CCTV footage, and statements made by the killer, which allowed the author to identify with the victims and their likely behaviour.

All characters are vividly brought to life and the reader is pulled into their world, sharing their emotions and frustrations (and frustration is what the second part of the book will bring).  Hunter does not shield the reader from the brutality of the crimes, but at the same time he handles all involved with respect and dignity, particularly the victims and their relatives, without getting dragged into gossip or into non-relevant aspects of their personal lives (this comment will make more sense once I publish my review of a more recent and hyped book which deals with the same killer).  Whilst presenting oddities and curiosities, he is never judgemental.

Leaflet appealing for information about the disappearance of Sam Koenig, and the coffee stand she was abducted from.Various timelines intersect as we follow the disappearance of a couple in June 2011 in Essex, Vermont, then the abduction of Samantha Koenig in Anchorage, Alaska, on 1 February 2012, followed by the hunt for her kidnapper, his apprehension and incarceration.  This is interspersed with the killer's own personal backstory, presented in italics, which starts on 7 December 2000 and ends up catching up with current events.  All is well presented and easy to follow, and it gives us food for thought when it comes to the question of what makes a serial killer.

As I mentioned above, the second part of the book becomes frustrating and repetitive due to the interactions between Keyes and law enforcement, and this section could arguably have been abridged somewhat. However, that may have detracted from the overall realism, and accuracy of the story.

There is also an instance during the description of how Keyes dealt with Samantha's dead body which appears at odds with the events reported for her murder; I investigated this and what Hunter presents is accurate according to what was recounted by Keyes in an official interview with the FBI.  It would have been helpful for the author to have reconciled this in the two relevant sections.

May 2020: FBI appeal to identify more victimsHunter once again made me think and spurred me to look further into matters.  It is worth noting that this is a contemporary crime, and investigations relating to it are still active, with the FBI releasing new evidence and making a renewed call for information in May 2020, which made it all the more poignant and left me wondering just how many serial killers are out there who go completely undetected; at this point I could actually write an essay about Keyes's behaviour and psychology, and about the early tell-tale signs which continue to be ignored in our society and why that might be. 

I look forward to continue catching up with J.T. Hunter's back-catalogue.

About the Author

J.T. Hunter is an attorney with over fourteen years of experience practicing law, including criminal law and appeals, and he has significant training in criminal investigation techniques.

He is also a college professor in Florida where his teaching interests focus on the intersection of criminal psychology, law, and literature.

JT's best-selling true crime books include:
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