Thursday, March 15, 2012

52 Books in 52 Weeks - Book Ten: Unholy Messenger

Unholy Messenger: The Life and Crimes of the BTK Serial Killer - Stephen Singular

As you may remember, I am a big fan of true crime, but some books in this genre fall short in their storytelling. Not so with Unholy Messenger. This is the kind of true crime book I enjoy: long on the psychological character study and a bit shorter on the police work, with just enough gore to make it realistic but not so much to make it uncomfortable to read.

Dennis Rader made headlines back in the 70s in Wichita, Kansas, as the BTK Killer. But after terrorizing that city, killing 10 people and taunting the press and police, he went underground. Then, as the Jaws trailer used to say, “Just when you thought it was safe …” he returned in 2004.

What was most fascinating about this man was his double life. While he wasn’t busy drooling over his version of erotica and carefully plotting his next homicide, he was a husband, father, scout leader, civil servant and church elder. While the police were busy suspecting every white, middle-aged male in a 20-mile radius of the crimes, he flew under the radar. No one ever saw him coming!

How he was captured after reemerging in the 21st century still possessing only a 20th century skill set is ironic and strangely satisfying. As is this book.

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