Member Review

The Kill Jar

Pub Date:

Review by

Erin K, Reviewer

Last updated on 28 Jan 2020

My Recommendation

If you want to read a book that seamlessly combines true crime with the author's own demons, I'd suggest Michelle McNamara's "I'll Be Gone in the Dark." Unfortunately, "The Kill Jar" suffers from a confusing structure and a lack of clear connections between the crime that Appelman is investigating and his own story. The premise for the book is actually really interesting: four children within the same county were kidnapped and murdered in the '70s (spurring the nickname the Oakland County Child Killer). Appelman was almost abducted himself around the same time and believes he could have been one of the victims if he hadn't escaped. Because of this near-brush with death, Appelman had always felt a connection to the killings and had an invested interest in discovering the killer's identity. This all sounds really intriguing, but the execution just didn't work. Appelman never offers clear details surrounding the crimes (just a sprinkling of information here and there) and his focus on his own personal trauma (mostly about his abusive father) just didn't seem to gel. It also felt frustrating that the exact identity of the killer (killers?) has never been definitively answered (although McNamara's didn't either and that ending still felt satisfying). I wanted to be enmeshed in this story, but the structure was so confusing that I couldn't seem to hold onto any of the details. And instead of being transfixed by Appelman's own story, I felt frustrated by the feeling that he was almost inserting himself into the action unnaturally. A definite disappointment.

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