Review: The Most Dangerous Animal Of All by Gary L. Stewart & Susan Mustafa

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Title: The Most Dangerous Animal of All
Subtitle: Searching For My Father and Finding the Zodiac Killer
Pages: 334 (367 including notes, etc.)
Genre: Non-ficiton; True crime; Memoir
Publisher: Harper (Harper Collins)
Pub. Date: May 13, 2014

In 2007 I went to the theater and saw the then latest Jake Gyllenhaal movie, Zodiac. It was based on the true story of the Zodiac Murders in the 70's which I hadn't known anything about up until then, but it was interesting and the movie itself was really good. And then, coincidentally, I watched the movie again last month when a friend of mine was visiting because she hadn't seen it before and it was on Netflix. So I was super interested in this book when it came out. (And just a side note, the cover is so interesting. The front and back cover is a picture of the believed-to-be serial killer and the dust jacket is red and clear. My hubby is reading this one too, and he and I agreed to keep the dust jacket on while reading this, because I can't just have a large serial killer's face sitting around my house!)

Anyway, it took me a minute to get into the book, but then once I did it was hard to put down! One of the authors, Gary Stewart, was surprisingly reunited with his birth mother at the age of 39. This eventually led him to look more for his father. He started to find signs that his father may have been the infamous Zodiac killer of the 70's, so he continued to research it for the next twelve years and provides his evidence and reasoning for how he believes his father, Earl Van Best Jr. "Van", was this serial killer.

The book is broken up into three parts: first he writes about the history of the romance between Van and his mother and then the second two parts are about his investigation and when his father becomes the Zodiac. It was fascinating and, especially if you are into true crime, you will fly through it. I can't remember if the author's conclusions were the same as the movie's or not, but I feel like the movie thought it was someone else. It's convincing in the movie, but so is the book, so I'm not sure about all that. I do wish that the author would have mentioned the movie and his thoughts on that, since he was doing all his investigating already when the movie came out. But other than that and feeling like it ended somewhat abruptly, I really enjoyed this book. If nothing else, it is an interesting look at the factors that influenced the development of a possible serial killer.