The Kill Jar
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.

The Kill Jar Details

TitleThe Kill Jar
Author
ReleaseAug 14th, 2018
PublisherGallery Books
ISBN-139781507204023
Rating
GenreCrime, True Crime, Nonfiction, Mystery, Autobiography, Memoir

The Kill Jar Review

  • Julie
    January 1, 1970
    The Kill Jar: Obsession, Descent, and the Hunt for Detroit’s most Notorious Serial Killer by J. Reuben Appelman is a 2018 Gallery Books publication. “There was a serial killer out there, swiping kids from their footing like sweeping a few bugs into the kill jar in his garden, and there was nothing anybody could do but keep their doors locked and ride out the storm.”The OCCK- or The Oakland County Child Killer- refers to a series of child murders in the late seventies in Detroit. To this day the The Kill Jar: Obsession, Descent, and the Hunt for Detroit’s most Notorious Serial Killer by J. Reuben Appelman is a 2018 Gallery Books publication. “There was a serial killer out there, swiping kids from their footing like sweeping a few bugs into the kill jar in his garden, and there was nothing anybody could do but keep their doors locked and ride out the storm.”The OCCK- or The Oakland County Child Killer- refers to a series of child murders in the late seventies in Detroit. To this day the killer has yet to be officially identified. Serial killers were quite prolific in the seventies. I remember the huge headliners, like ‘Son of Sam’, the ‘Zodiac’, and Manson- to name a few. But, this case was not on my radar at all. Four children- two boys and two girls were murdered, which is horrible enough. But, it also appears that the investigators may have botched the investigation and then needed to cover their tracks. For the author of this book, the case is intensely personal. He was nearly a kidnapping victim himself at one time. Under those conditions, it is easy to see how a case like this could worm its way under someone’s skin. An ordinary curiosity, or interest in a case could easily morph into a full- on obsession. I’ve followed crime cases for years, reading every book penned on the subject, watching every documentary or crime show about it, reading any newspaper reports or articles on the case and so forth. But, I don’t think about these cases every waking moment of my life or attempt to solve the crime myself. I don’t contact the victim’s families, or blog about true crime, or contemplate writing a book on the subject. Maybe there is something about experiencing crime on a periphery that affects a person so deeply they feel compelled to prevent more crimes from taking place or feel a need to find closure or justice for those who didn’t survive, as a penance for their own. Appelman is not the first person to become so obsessed with a cold case they upended their entire lives, lost perspective, and struggled to find normalcy. The obvious comparison would be to Michelle McNamara, whose obsession with the ‘Golden State Killer’ may have contributed to her untimely death. While this ‘descent’, which is an incredibly apt word for it, by Appelman, and McNamara are hauntingly similar, and will draw inevitable parallels, I would caution you not to make comparisons. I hate to dissect this book in a truly negative way, but at the end of the day, for all of Appelman’s immense sacrifices, only a small amount of new information was unearthed. The police did seem to withhold evidence from the victim’s family, and there were avenues they didn’t explore fully, evidence was 'lost', and in one instance a report with sensitive information, possibly naming a viable suspect was whited out. But, at the end of the day, much of what I read here was hearsay. There are some pretty far-flung conspiracy theories that would rival Oliver Stone’s JFK movie, but no proof that would stand up in a court of law. Sure, there were some moments when the effect was quite chilling and could make the hair stand up on the back of your neck. But, it was all too vague and doing a little side digging of my own, I’m pretty sure we can figure out who the killer probably was, despite there being several other very viable candidates. What really stands out about this book is the author’s memoir. Appelman is a very troubled soul. His depression is marked. It’s serious enough that I’d strongly suggest seeking professional help. The book leaned heavily on the author’s personal life, his struggles with his marriage, his moral temptations and weaknesses, and felt more like airing dirty laundry than an expose on how this case took over his life. Occasionally, Appelman unnerved me and had me squirming in my seat. He’s a very tense person, dark, brooding and moody. I was concerned for him, but also for those close to him as he did seem to struggle with dark and violent thoughts and tendencies. I’m not sure if the case is the cause of his instability or if his obsession or ‘descent’ is actually a symptom of something far more serious. I’m not being judgmental here, nor am I an expert on this type psychological compulsion. I felt bad for the guy, but he also made me feel very uncomfortable at times. I do hope he can find peace and balance so that he can be the father he wants so desperately to be. But, if nothing else, this book shines a light on a forgotten cold case. I will definitely take a closer look at this case and seek out documentaries or further reading materials on the subject.
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  • Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader
    January 1, 1970
    4 chilling stars to The Kill Jar! ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ 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 o 4 chilling stars to The Kill Jar! ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ 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 kind of 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. My reviews can also be found on my blog: www.jennifertarheelreader.com
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  • Valerity (Val)
    January 1, 1970
    Having grown up in Oakland County, Michigan I first became interested in these murders after reading about them in other books. I was very eager to read this book which promised the results of the author’s ten-year investigation of buried leads and police cover-ups of evidence, con-men, child porn rings, and high-level corruption. It certainly delivered on that and on being also part memoir, as the author J. Reuben Appelman also grew up in Michigan, in the Detroit area and was intimately familia Having grown up in Oakland County, Michigan I first became interested in these murders after reading about them in other books. I was very eager to read this book which promised the results of the author’s ten-year investigation of buried leads and police cover-ups of evidence, con-men, child porn rings, and high-level corruption. It certainly delivered on that and on being also part memoir, as the author J. Reuben Appelman also grew up in Michigan, in the Detroit area and was intimately familiar with the areas he discusses in the book. He still has family there and made efforts to reconnect with them as he did his work on the case. This book has a ton of great information about the cases, about the suspects, and about new suspects never heard of and what’s happened in the intervening years. Appelman connects the dots and lets you decide based on some rather shocking details. This is a must-read for anyone with an interest in the Oakland County Child Murders case of 1976 and 1977 or true crime fans. An advance digital copy was provided by NetGalley and author J. Reuben Appelman for my unbiased review. Gallery BooksPublication: Aug 14, 2018My Bookzone blog on Wordpress: https://wordpress.com/post/bookblog20...
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  • Kristin
    January 1, 1970
    1.5Appelman spent 10 years of his life and $15,000 in Kickstarter funds on The Kill Jar and this miserable book is all he has to show for it. While he rhapsodizes over every childhood slight from his own life in melodramatic detail, he almost never goes beyond the surface of the murder cases. Not a single fact here can be traced back to his own research and couldn't be found for yourself on the internet. Most of the research cited was handed to him by families of the victim who've been waging th 1.5Appelman spent 10 years of his life and $15,000 in Kickstarter funds on The Kill Jar and this miserable book is all he has to show for it. While he rhapsodizes over every childhood slight from his own life in melodramatic detail, he almost never goes beyond the surface of the murder cases. Not a single fact here can be traced back to his own research and couldn't be found for yourself on the internet. Most of the research cited was handed to him by families of the victim who've been waging their own uphill battle for justice for 25 years. Except for a Cliffs Notes rundown on what he's uncovered in the closing chapters, the facts of the OCCK case are brought up in the ways that best let him segue into stories of his own miserable life and compulsion to self-harm.Our narrator is a repugnant narcissist who moans about his wife's affair while dedicating entire chapters to the TWO women he was pursuing every time he traveled to Oakland for research. He claims to care about his kids even as he details the elaborate murder/suicide fantasies he had when his marriage was falling apart. Like all good narcissists he seems completely unaware that readers might find this tacky, or that we may not find him endlessly fascinating.The introduction by a victim's sister complains about the ghouls who used her brother's murder "as a ready-made outline for fiction books" which makes me think she never saw the finished product because Appelman has done the same thing and used it as a framework for a self-obsessed memoir, trading on the story of murdered and molested children to get people to read his noir memoir.And if this were fiction, it would be a compelling read. But this isn't a pulp novel; the victims are real people, their families have been through the wringer, and this book is just one more injustice on an already insurmountable heap.
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  • Melissa
    January 1, 1970
    I received a copy of this from Netgalley in exchange for a review.CW: Child rape. Appelman weaves together a lot of threads in his quest to discover the identity of the Oakland County Child Killer, a lot of grotesque tentacles that curl out and then back in on themselves tangled with digressions into his abusive childhood, his adult relationship with his father, and his faltering marriage and relationship with his own children. Although he never solves the case conclusively, he builds a credible I received a copy of this from Netgalley in exchange for a review.CW: Child rape. Appelman weaves together a lot of threads in his quest to discover the identity of the Oakland County Child Killer, a lot of grotesque tentacles that curl out and then back in on themselves tangled with digressions into his abusive childhood, his adult relationship with his father, and his faltering marriage and relationship with his own children. Although he never solves the case conclusively, he builds a credible tale of a pedophile ring relying on kidnapped children for victims and corrupt cops willing to "lose" evidence to protect rich pedophiles. I didn't enjoy this book very much, not only because of the subject matter - Appelman veers all over his own narrative and chapters are arranged in a disjointed, almost dreamy fashion, seeming to almost mimic what I'd assume is the haphazard uncovering of clues in a police investigation. He's a great writer and this book is filled with rich, chewy phrasing that I'd be quoting if I could, but this was so muddled that I found it was a struggle to read & I was glad to be finished with it.
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  • Tricia Bentley
    January 1, 1970
    Although a fast read, this was a hard read. The subject matter is tough and the enormity of what the writer uncovers is a lot to digest. I think it is an important read..One that will stay with me for a long time.
  • Cassie-Traveling Sister-
    January 1, 1970
    This book is not my normal read but growing up in Michigan and still living in Michigan I just had to get my hands on it! This book was a dark story but beautifully written grabbing my attention with every word, about the four unsolved Oakland county children killings. The brutal killings took place between 1976-1977. I learned a lot about the alleged cover up of the case due to the wealthy high profile suspects, as well as horrible things about Michigan’s own pedophile ring which involved well This book is not my normal read but growing up in Michigan and still living in Michigan I just had to get my hands on it! This book was a dark story but beautifully written grabbing my attention with every word, about the four unsolved Oakland county children killings. The brutal killings took place between 1976-1977. I learned a lot about the alleged cover up of the case due to the wealthy high profile suspects, as well as horrible things about Michigan’s own pedophile ring which involved well known metro Detroit men! The author involved his own childhood growing up in Detroit and his difficult relationships and demons. The author who was six years old at the time of the murders tells his story of how he was almost kidnapped as someone dressed as a security guard while stealing candy from a local story. What is odd and what feeds the authors obsession is that the abductions stopped without any rhyme or reason and that there hasn’t been any arrests and the task force was shut down as well. The other side of the book is how the author has a history of violence and how his father who was a violent man shaped his childhood and his future with having difficulty’s in relationships and second guessing how he’s raising his own children. The kill jar held my attention win every word and I was truly hoping for a breakthrough in the case and finding the man who did this! I give this five stars and will recommend this book to family and friends .
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  • Paul
    January 1, 1970
    I think many will align this book with the recent popular true crime shows Serial, S Town, and Making of a Murderer. I don’t think they are wrong, but Appelman takes a much more personal and raw path in telling his story. His motivations whether altruistic or demon-driven are always on display as his own professed unbalance is juxtaposed with the corruption of the case. The Kill Jar is an addicting read, one that will have you Googling the case late at night to see the eyes of the suspects and t I think many will align this book with the recent popular true crime shows Serial, S Town, and Making of a Murderer. I don’t think they are wrong, but Appelman takes a much more personal and raw path in telling his story. His motivations whether altruistic or demon-driven are always on display as his own professed unbalance is juxtaposed with the corruption of the case. The Kill Jar is an addicting read, one that will have you Googling the case late at night to see the eyes of the suspects and to test your own theories.Thank you to NetGalley, Gallery Books, Simon and Schuster, and J. Reuben Appelman for the advance copy for review.Full review can be found here: https://paulspicks.blog/2018/04/12/th...Please check out all my reviews: https://paulspicks.blog
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  • Carol Custer
    January 1, 1970
    I usually find true crime stories fascinating and though much of this was also interesting, I found it distracting that the author talked so much about himself, being 'almost abducted', his sketchy life and girlfriend, etc. I think the book would have been better served to keep more to the facts of the cases. When the focus was on the cases themselves, the research and facts showed.
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  • Stacy Kingsley
    January 1, 1970
    I really, really wanted to like this book, but I just could not. The topic was interesting, but I am not sure if, besides police corruption, it gave any new information about the case at hand. I looked up the case on google as I read, and the information in the book about the case was all the same information I could find on google. The hard part of this book was that the chapters didn't transition well. One chapter could be about the case and the next about a pedophile ring that may have had so I really, really wanted to like this book, but I just could not. The topic was interesting, but I am not sure if, besides police corruption, it gave any new information about the case at hand. I looked up the case on google as I read, and the information in the book about the case was all the same information I could find on google. The hard part of this book was that the chapters didn't transition well. One chapter could be about the case and the next about a pedophile ring that may have had something about the case then the next would be about the authors relationship with his father and then there was a lot about girlfriends, his family, and self-harm. This book was very disjointed, although I understand how the families of the victims might have found some relief in this book as someone was once again talking about their deceased loved ones. I didn't think the author wrote as well as he could have either. From one chapter to another there were so many open ended ideas and questions, and in the end nothing was resolved. For example, the author met up with an old girlfriend, Ellie, and at the end of the book, in his last meeting with her he sees that she looks tired and different, but he doesn't question her about her appearance, so why did he bring it up? He talks a lot about his infidelities and self harm, but it all seems to be about him, not the story he is telling about the victims of the killer. He leads the reader into a circular thought pattern, and nothing is resolved, or changed by his telling of this story. I wish this had been more cohesive, and contained more information about the victims, as it seemed to focus on the pedophilia of the suspects and others who might have been involved in the coverup of the pedophile ring. This was not a great, or even a good book, it was too hard to read and left the author with nothing to look into or wonder about as it is a case which will most likely never be solved. So what was the purpose of writing this book?
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  • Ginni
    January 1, 1970
    The Kill Jar is two completely different stories clumsily mashed together: one of murder, pedophilia, and police corruption, and the other of a sad but not particularly memorable man and his various failed relationships. Every time I found myself caught up in the drama of the Oakland County Child Killings case, I was abruptly jerked out of it by more authorial intrusion. (Now I'm visiting an ex-girlfriend. Now I'm taking my kids to a ball game. Now I'm having lunch with my dad.) It's the same is The Kill Jar is two completely different stories clumsily mashed together: one of murder, pedophilia, and police corruption, and the other of a sad but not particularly memorable man and his various failed relationships. Every time I found myself caught up in the drama of the Oakland County Child Killings case, I was abruptly jerked out of it by more authorial intrusion. (Now I'm visiting an ex-girlfriend. Now I'm taking my kids to a ball game. Now I'm having lunch with my dad.) It's the same issue that ruined The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks for me--the person telling a fascinating story felt compelled to put themselves into it. It smacks of narcissism and honestly, if I were the family of any of the victims, I would feel pretty disrespected.(I received this book for free through a Goodreads giveaway.)
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  • ButYouGotMySoul
    January 1, 1970
    **This book was provided to me as an advanced reader's copy via Netgalley. All opinions contained within this review are my own.** I honestly cannot recommend this book. The author is whiny, and not relatable. The arc and scope of the author's research is completely eclipsed by his incessant complaining and rumination about his father.I feel as though we were supposed to see connections between all the victims of this horrific crime and this man that gives us no reason to really care about him.T **This book was provided to me as an advanced reader's copy via Netgalley. All opinions contained within this review are my own.** I honestly cannot recommend this book. The author is whiny, and not relatable. The arc and scope of the author's research is completely eclipsed by his incessant complaining and rumination about his father.I feel as though we were supposed to see connections between all the victims of this horrific crime and this man that gives us no reason to really care about him.The research was also not clear in the timeline of the crimes - there is too much back and forth about each suspect, not a clear presentation of why each suspect was implicated.In all, the research and writing about the actual murders was well done, but needed some more fleshing out - the parts about the author could have been done away with entirely.
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  • Videoclimber(AKA)MTsLilSis
    January 1, 1970
    This is really hard for me to review. There are a lot of suggestions for who the killer or killers was or were, but no definitive answer. I found some of the book confusing with the repetitive forays into the author's childhood and more unanswered questions. I am still confused even after finishing. Not one of my favorite true crime reads.*Thank you to NetGalley, the author, and the publisher for allowing me to read an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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  • Beth
    January 1, 1970
    This was such a tough book to read. One of the victims, Tim King, was a friend and classmate, and his kidnapping and ultimate murder has haunted me for all of these years. I have followed this case since the internet made info accessible. This book, however, revealed a lot I did not know...all of it just horrifying. The author’s story interspersed is also tough to read...The whole thing was intense! It’s well-written though, and I recommend it...just be prepared.
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  • Nicole
    January 1, 1970
    While not a large book and potentially a fast read, the subject matter is very emotionally challenging. I couldn't sit and read this for long periods of time, it was too overwhelming. The horrific things that happened in Detroit and the cover-ups was terrifying. My heart goes out to all the victims. My biggest issue was how the book jumped around, so I sometimes struggled with keeping people straight. The author also alludes to his dad being a bad father, but doesn't go into if he was abusive al While not a large book and potentially a fast read, the subject matter is very emotionally challenging. I couldn't sit and read this for long periods of time, it was too overwhelming. The horrific things that happened in Detroit and the cover-ups was terrifying. My heart goes out to all the victims. My biggest issue was how the book jumped around, so I sometimes struggled with keeping people straight. The author also alludes to his dad being a bad father, but doesn't go into if he was abusive also or non existant or what, so that was a little confusing also. I did like it, as mush as one can with this subject matter, it was just a tough read.
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  • Absolom J. Hagg
    January 1, 1970
    This book melds true crime with memoir and does so with surprising deftness. The author grew up in Detroit and was about the age of the children kidnapped and killed by the OCCK. Going back to Detroit to research the book brings out a lot of conflicted feelings about the violence in his past and in his life and delving into how that, along with the rigors of his research, affects him makes for a true crime book unlike any other I've read. If you go in expecting a straight journalistic take, you This book melds true crime with memoir and does so with surprising deftness. The author grew up in Detroit and was about the age of the children kidnapped and killed by the OCCK. Going back to Detroit to research the book brings out a lot of conflicted feelings about the violence in his past and in his life and delving into how that, along with the rigors of his research, affects him makes for a true crime book unlike any other I've read. If you go in expecting a straight journalistic take, you may be disappointed (but make no mistake, the journalism is good too), but if you want an exploration of how those crimes insinuated themselves into the lives of so many for so long, you'll be treated with a book of depth and care.
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  • Amelia
    January 1, 1970
    My head is still spinning trying to grasp that this is a true story. But you can’t make this stuff up. I am absolutely floored at the seemingly endless number of depraved and perverted perps and accomplices that keep emerging as Appelman carefully peels back the layers of this astounding cover up.Have noticed that some are critical of the format that weaves J.R. Appelman’s own feelings and connections to the story throughout. I found this distracting at first, but then realized it was only his o My head is still spinning trying to grasp that this is a true story. But you can’t make this stuff up. I am absolutely floored at the seemingly endless number of depraved and perverted perps and accomplices that keep emerging as Appelman carefully peels back the layers of this astounding cover up.Have noticed that some are critical of the format that weaves J.R. Appelman’s own feelings and connections to the story throughout. I found this distracting at first, but then realized it was only his own pain end empathy that drove him to conduct such phenomenally thorough research.
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  • Amy (literatiloves)
    January 1, 1970
    It is so difficult to rate a book where the content is so deeply disturbing. I struggle between 2 and 3 stars and even though I can’t say I enjoyed the experience of reading it, the author did do in-depth research and did a fine job at telling the story, although I thought at times he could have used a more delicate hand to describe some of the things that happened. I’m sure it was very hard to immerse himself in the research of this case and that is apparent by the toll it seemed to take on him It is so difficult to rate a book where the content is so deeply disturbing. I struggle between 2 and 3 stars and even though I can’t say I enjoyed the experience of reading it, the author did do in-depth research and did a fine job at telling the story, although I thought at times he could have used a more delicate hand to describe some of the things that happened. I’m sure it was very hard to immerse himself in the research of this case and that is apparent by the toll it seemed to take on him when he seemed to already be struggling with depression. I think it was brave for him to tell his story as well and I hope he has gotten help to deal with it. As far as the story of the OOCK, there are so many roads to go down and I thought the author did a good job of tying it all together when there is no definitive answer. I hope that with advances in DNA and with people continuing to research the case, one day the families will have answers. Be warned, this book would be VERY triggering for sexual assault.
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  • Katie
    January 1, 1970
    When I was a kid, growing up with a bipolar alcoholic father, there were times I thought to myself, “you should write all this stuff down, other people would find it so interesting.” As I grew up, I realized how egocentric that kind of thinking is. The author of this book never made that realization. This book is half true crime story about a serial killer and half the moody, emo, diary entries of a 40 year old teenager who frankly eats too many hot dogs.
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  • Gerty Mac
    January 1, 1970
    The information about the OCCK case in this book takes up about 50 pages. The other 200+ pages are about the author's personal crisis, which sounds like it sucks. But, my dude, this is the stuff you take up with your therapist, not publish as true crime. Also, bonus use of women exclusively as manic pixie dream girls or described as objects throughout.
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  • Sam Mowry
    January 1, 1970
    Content warning: uh, literally everything? Holy crap. Pedophilia, rape, child rape, child abuse, child murder, self-harm, uh... everything. The admittedly overly flippant way I reviewed this by text to my friends was, "Too much bullshit about the author’s own demons, which, like, fine, I get what you’re going for, but I don’t know you and I don’t care, just tell me more about the crazy interwoven pedophilia ring and the child murders :-D."As far as the true crimey parts go, it was great. I picke Content warning: uh, literally everything? Holy crap. Pedophilia, rape, child rape, child abuse, child murder, self-harm, uh... everything. The admittedly overly flippant way I reviewed this by text to my friends was, "Too much bullshit about the author’s own demons, which, like, fine, I get what you’re going for, but I don’t know you and I don’t care, just tell me more about the crazy interwoven pedophilia ring and the child murders :-D."As far as the true crimey parts go, it was great. I picked up this book after hearing it recommended on Bookriot's For Real podcast with MANY MANY caveats about how it was a good read IF and ONLY IF you were in the mood to stomach something extremely dark and crazy disturbing. So I bought it on a whim on Kindle and starting reading the same day, and boy, I was expecting to be SCANDALIZED and clutch my pearls and READER, I DID. It's extremely dark, as promised! That part was juicy and good.I still probably would have only given four stars if it had just been that part, because I had a hard time following who everyone was. I'm not incompetent and I read a lot, so I'm pretty sure that's because the author could have done a noticeably better job of reminding the reader who is who when he goes many chapters between references to a given suspect.What drags this down for me, really, is the author's insistence on interweaving his own story in with the true crime stuff. I get what he's going for, because he grew up in the area and had a traumatic childhood and isn't fully healed (will never maybe be fully healed from that), and one person's healing is as un-guaranteed as a community's is after a rash of child murders, (as just one literary way of connecting the two parts). But in practice: dude, I don't know you. I'm sorry you're mad at your dad, but I don't know him either, and frankly I don't care. Tell me more about the sordid and appalling child sex ring you uncovered, not that it's 3am and you're considering self-harm. Also, it is *completely* within the author's purview to reveal as much or as little of themselves as they choose in such an instance, but the fact that he spends solidly 40% of the book expressing his anguish about his childhood and his dad's actions and then explicitly says at the end that he chose not to say what his dad actually did is frustrating. In general, it's hard to empathize with this particular random dude I don't know when I also don't know what his trauma was, and in particular, this book is FILLED with *extremely graphic details about horrifying crimes*. To whine about your own trauma and then refuse to go into the gory details is understandable, but frustrating. This is not the book for your memoir, put that in another book that I can choose to read or not. I chose to read this one about child killings, kthnxbye.
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  • Karen Nelson
    January 1, 1970
    The Kill Jar: Obsession, Descent, and a Hunt for Detroit's Most Notorious Serial Killer was an enthralling book. I hate to admit it, but I enjoy a true crime story and this totally fit the bill. Well-written as part memoir, part true crime investigation, and part love story to a long lost Detroit, the book is a culmination of the author’s ten year obsession with one heck of a story. During the late 1970s, when child abductions seemed to be epidemic, Detroit had four child abduction-murders that The Kill Jar: Obsession, Descent, and a Hunt for Detroit's Most Notorious Serial Killer was an enthralling book. I hate to admit it, but I enjoy a true crime story and this totally fit the bill. Well-written as part memoir, part true crime investigation, and part love story to a long lost Detroit, the book is a culmination of the author’s ten year obsession with one heck of a story. During the late 1970s, when child abductions seemed to be epidemic, Detroit had four child abduction-murders that were never solved. The author has spent ten years researching and obsessing over this set of murders, partly because of his proximity in age growing up in Detroit. The author sets his gritty story against his own violent childhood, a once vibrant Detroit, and quite possibly, his own narrow escape as a victim of abduction. He describes the dead end leads, dirty cops, pedophlia clubs, autopsy coverups, lots of “suicides," families of privilege who covered up for their children who needed help, as well as incorrect information dispersed to the public. It’s a sad, gritty tale, that leads us to some incomplete conclusions that the killings stopped when a couple of suspects were incarcerated or died. There is never a true conclusion, but we have an idea after the author puts many pieces of a puzzle together for us. Most, importantly, the author seems to heal from his own past and becomes a better father and man by addressing some of his own demons from his childhood during his researching this book. I loved this book and devoured it in two days camping in a beautiful lakeside site. It’s a solid five star book and highly recommend it to those who love true crime stories. Thank you to the publisher and #NetGalley for a pre-publication ebook in exchange for an honest review.
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  • Stephanie
    January 1, 1970
    2.75 starsThis book is full of short chapters, which make the text and ideas choppy and somewhat confusing. The story Appelman presents is a combination of his personal life (ranging from present to childhood memories) and the murders.I truly felt like Appelman wanted to give the reader a glimpse of feeling and emotion he felt by describing his daily life during the time period when he is researching the OCCK murders of the 1970's in Detroit, Michigan. It appears what he attempts to do, is take 2.75 starsThis book is full of short chapters, which make the text and ideas choppy and somewhat confusing. The story Appelman presents is a combination of his personal life (ranging from present to childhood memories) and the murders.I truly felt like Appelman wanted to give the reader a glimpse of feeling and emotion he felt by describing his daily life during the time period when he is researching the OCCK murders of the 1970's in Detroit, Michigan. It appears what he attempts to do, is take the reader on the journey with him. Many times all I could picture was one of those cheesy detective mysteries where the detective narrators what you watch him do.What I liked about this book: - I knew nothing of the OCCK murders and Appelman provides a lot of information - he never gives absolute answers but instead allows the reader to think and reason on their own as to what may have happened- Appelman does some research on the pedophile sex rings in the area at the time and provides a lot of information of how they workedWhat I didn't like about this book:- NO REFERENCES! WHAT IS WITH THIS LATELY??- Appelman's personal life is sometimes so distracting I had to search back in the text to remind myself who the suspect or person he switches back to discuss, actually is. A run down on who the cast of characters were would have been helpful- Appelman leaves way too many loose ends - mostly to do with his personal life.. such as .. What dirt did he find out about his father? What in the heck happened to his mother? I noticed that Appelman will be involved in a documentary on these Murders. I am interested to see it, hoping it might provide more details than is in the book.
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  • Kimberly
    January 1, 1970
    One can only hope that the attention this book will bring to the Oakland County Child Killings will help to bring some sort of resolution to the four open cases and help to bring peace to the families of the victims.I found The Kill Jar very disturbing, not only in the stories that it tells (Appelman's as well) but in the way that they are told: roaming around, rough-edged and strings hanging. It's like wandering in a maze, or inside of the mind of someone not-quite well, which is clearly the in One can only hope that the attention this book will bring to the Oakland County Child Killings will help to bring some sort of resolution to the four open cases and help to bring peace to the families of the victims.I found The Kill Jar very disturbing, not only in the stories that it tells (Appelman's as well) but in the way that they are told: roaming around, rough-edged and strings hanging. It's like wandering in a maze, or inside of the mind of someone not-quite well, which is clearly the intention.I grew up in Detroit and was a teenager when these murders were happening -- in fact, I went to high school two blocks away from the Masonic Temple Appelman luridly describes. While my memories aren't quite as dark as Appelman describes -- there is a park in front of the Temple that we high school kids would hang out in, that in fact had playground equipment for children much younger than us, and I had friends that were emancipated teens that had apartments in the Corridor that we would hang out in -- I understand that he is trying to create a mood. Unfortunately, it is the same sort of description white residents of the Detroit metro area north of 8 Mile generally gave to an area they were otherwise ignorant of, and remain so to this day. As someone who spent time living and breathing the streets and buildings Appelman paints so darkly, I caution the reader to take a grain of salt, and remind them that while he casts Detroit city in the shadow of all of the dirt and crime, it was in Oakland County, where the rich, white people live, that these horrific crimes took place.
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  • Conni
    January 1, 1970
    This is a true crime novel. The author writes this book in first person. The book is a comprehensive look into the Oakland County Child Killer (OCCK) Case back in 1976-1977. The Book was written in 2010, thirty six years after the crimes. The author was there during the original murders. He lived there in the same city, 15 minutes away from one of the sites as a young lad. He also had a run in with a man posing as a security guard who, as he looks back, could have been the killer posing to snatc This is a true crime novel. The author writes this book in first person. The book is a comprehensive look into the Oakland County Child Killer (OCCK) Case back in 1976-1977. The Book was written in 2010, thirty six years after the crimes. The author was there during the original murders. He lived there in the same city, 15 minutes away from one of the sites as a young lad. He also had a run in with a man posing as a security guard who, as he looks back, could have been the killer posing to snatch him, the author. Eerie, huh? When I first started reading I assumed the author is an investigative journalist who drives to the scene of each crime and visits the neighborhood to get his story. As I read, though, I realized that these crimes had a deeper effect on the author and his childhood or because of his childhood. As the author writes about this case, he inserts the effects it had on his personal psyche. Appelman explains his connection to the victims because of his own upbringing during the time of the crimes. It’s a round about story to inform the reader about past and current prejudices he reads in thousands of pages of evidence, the interviews, and his own interpretation of the various testimonies. As the author adds more and more details from the past and present, the reader gets the broad picture of why this case cannot be totally solved. J. Reuben Appelman writes with a very descriptive pen. He describes scenes in such detail, it reads like your looking at a photo or video. The book starts out with a letter from the publisher, a forward written by a sister of one of the victims, an introduction from the author, followed by a prologue, all before the story begins. It’s been 34 years since the murders. The case has never been solved. The sister of one of the victims believes that law enforcement stonewalled any attempt to solve it. There is also a deep look into church and government corruption, which seems to have had a great impact on the outcome of solving or not solving this case. The book delves into multiple pedophile groups operating at and around the time of the OCCK murders. Thank you to NetGalley, Gallery Books, Simon and Schuster, and J. Reuben Appelman for the advance copy for review.
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  • Donna Hines
    January 1, 1970
    Winter of '76 showed no remorse as 4 kids were abducted and murdered.Reuben Appelman was only 6 yo at the time and was lucky to be alive. Now he's on a mission to bring home the killer.With his only childhood in disarray wrought with child abuse and an angry disturbed father we uncover that even his own father was suspect.Bodies were left groomed and fed while alive.This 10 yr old investigation will not rest until the killer is found -Dead or Alive-as Detroits most notorious killer roams the str Winter of '76 showed no remorse as 4 kids were abducted and murdered.Reuben Appelman was only 6 yo at the time and was lucky to be alive. Now he's on a mission to bring home the killer.With his only childhood in disarray wrought with child abuse and an angry disturbed father we uncover that even his own father was suspect.Bodies were left groomed and fed while alive.This 10 yr old investigation will not rest until the killer is found -Dead or Alive-as Detroits most notorious killer roams the streets.To me this is very cut and dry without much in between to connect for the reader.I felt like I was back in the office of my public defenders office reading another brief along with a few crime reporters notes.With a personal connection you'd think there'd be more emotionally upheaval and appeal to the audience.
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  • Frank Gradishar
    January 1, 1970
    Having been mildly obsessed with the subject matter of this book (the gruesome, unsolved murders of four children in the suburbs of Detroit in the 1970s and the likely involvement of a ring of pedophiles, some of whom may have influenced investigators and prosecutors, resulting in the case remaining “cold” for over 30 years) I was looking forward to someone finally addressing numerous, lingering issues evident in this case dating back the original task force investigation (and through subsequent Having been mildly obsessed with the subject matter of this book (the gruesome, unsolved murders of four children in the suburbs of Detroit in the 1970s and the likely involvement of a ring of pedophiles, some of whom may have influenced investigators and prosecutors, resulting in the case remaining “cold” for over 30 years) I was looking forward to someone finally addressing numerous, lingering issues evident in this case dating back the original task force investigation (and through subsequent reopening of the matter many years later). I admittedly presumed this book would reflect a more straight, good-old-fashioned "just the facts" journalistic approach common to the non-fiction crime genre. Instead, author J. Reuben Appleman - a contemporary of the victims of the crimes who lived in the same geographic region – employs a different technique. Mr. Appleman dramatically details his factual investigation of the crimes while at the same time detailing his own emotional and physical journey back to his roots, essentially conducting two investigations: one into the OCCK, and another, somehow equally important investigation of his own battered and, at times fragile, psyche. At first I wasn’t sure how to handle this method, but the juxtaposition of Mr. Appleman’s confrontation of his own inner demons against his travels deeper and deeper down the various rabbit holes he confronts while doing much more than local, state, and federal authorities ever did to unmask a child killer or killers, is utterly compelling. His drive and dedication to give the victims, their families, and those left living with the results of the crimes, the justice so deserved, is commendable. His writing style is concise and engaging. The Kill Jar remains gripping from the first page to the last.
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  • Amphetamine Sulphate
    January 1, 1970
    "Insert whatever emptiness you feel, and then hold on to that for the rest of your life. You still won't even be close to feeling what those boys must have felt." 'Kill Jar' has its moments but also loopy logic, verging on conspiracy claptrap. These postmodern memoirs seem to have firmly replaced the true crime cut n' paste jobs of yore; which, given the delicate subject matter and heavy breathing narrator/questor, means that this is probably not a suitable read for mom. Sadly.
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  • Jessica
    January 1, 1970
    I did like the book and the way the author incorporated aspects from his life into his story. It is one of those books that leaves you frustrated, but that is the nature of this investigation. It definitely was different than I was expecting, but I was pleasantly surprised that I enjoyed it as much as I did.
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  • Athena Morgan
    January 1, 1970
    The Kill Jar is a gripping novel that is well written. This novel drew me in from page one. This true crime book will stay with you forever. The haunting, sickening, horribly sad story of these children will stay with those who lived in and not far from Detroit, MI.
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