Happy Wednesday, everyone!

Today I have a review of The Kill Jar: Obsession, Descent, and a Hunt for Detroit’s Most Notorious Serial Killer publishing by Gallery Books on August 14. This book is a hybrid of well-researched true crime nonfiction and memoir based on the author’s self-proclaimed obsession with a serial killer. I do not often read true crime, but on the rare occasion when I am in front of the television, I watch true crime shows like Dateline and 48 Hours. All of that to say, this book was a shade outside my norm, and as a result, a different type of review for me to write. 😊

My Thoughts:

A serial killer in the Detroit, Michigan area abducted and murdered four children in 1976 and 1977. The author was six-years-old when the murders occurred, and someone dressed as a security guard attempted to abduct him during that same timeframe. After, J. Reuben Appleman says he became obsessed with the Oakland County Murders. 

The narrative reviews the available evidence in true crime fashion, and these sections were well-written and engaging, though of course, extremely difficult to read due to the content. 

The abductions stopped without rhyme or reason, and the task force shut down without an arrest. 

The author has a history with violence, and he details his past and how he was shaped by the early events in his life, including the attempted abduction by a possible serial killer. The author connects the crime to his own thoughts as he grew up and relays his own opinions. I found this an interesting added layer of honesty, but I also could see how it might be distracting, especially if you are looking for a straight-up true crime book. 

My favorite aspects of The Kill Jar were the investigations into the murders. The details were laid out in an easy-to-follow format, and the author clearly had performed extensive research. Appelman covers the corruption and possible scandal and illustrates why these murders have proven difficult to solve. 

While I am not sure the true crime genre is one I will visit regularly, The Kill Jar held me captive. I wished for an outcome (i.e., some answers) for these families throughout reading, and I will continue to wish that for them now knowing the cases are still unsolved. 

Thank you to Gallery Books for the complimentary ARC. All opinions are my own. The Kill Jar will be released on August 14, 2018. 


Enthralling. Gripping. Cinematic. Raw. A cold case murder investigation paced like a podcast, as visually stunning as a film, and as brave and personal as our darkest memoirs. J. Reuben Appelman cracks open one of America’s most notorious murder sprees while simultaneously banging the gavel on his own history with violence. A deftly-crafted true crime story with grit, set amid the decaying sprawl of Detroit and its outliers.

With a foreword by Catherine Broad, sister of victim Timothy King.

Four children were abducted and murdered outside of Detroit during the winters of 1976 and 1977, their bodies eventually dumped in snow banks around the city. J. Reuben Appelman was six years old at the time the murders began and had evaded an abduction attempt during that same period, fueling a lifelong obsession with what became known as the Oakland County Child Killings.

Autopsies showed the victims to have been fed while in captivity, reportedly held with care. And yet, with equal care, their bodies had allegedly been groomed post-mortem, scrubbed-free of evidence that might link to a killer. There were few credible leads, and equally few credible suspects. That’s what the cops had passed down to the press, and that’s what the city of Detroit, and J. Reuben Appelman, had come to believe.

When the abductions mysteriously stopped, a task force operating on one of the largest manhunt budgets in history shut down without an arrest. Although no more murders occurred, Detroit and its environs remained haunted. The killer had, presumably, not been caught.

Eerily overlaid upon the author’s own decades-old history with violence, The Kill Jar tells the gripping story of J. Reuben Appelman’s ten-year investigation into buried leads, apparent police cover-ups of evidence, con-men, child pornography rings, and high-level corruption saturating Detroit’s most notorious serial killer case.

Have you read The Kill Jar, or do you plan to? Do you enjoy true crime nonfiction? Happy Reading! ~ Jennifer THR