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J.T. Hunter
American Monster
JT Hunter, author

Adult; True Crime; (Market)

This book is about serial killer and rapist Oba Chandler. The story focuses on the June 1989 triple-murder he committed by luring a vacationing mother and her two teenage daughters onto his fishing boat under the guise of a sunset cruise.
Hunter (The Vampire Next Door) delivers a chilling true crime account of serial killer and rapist Oba Chandler, revolving around the June 1989 triple murder of a mother, Joan Rogers, and her two daughters, Michelle and Christe, whose bodies were found floating in Tampa Bay, Fla. Hunter opens with the day the bodies were discovered and delves into the ensuing investigation, detailing the multiple procedures used by authorities to solve the crime, but the story doesn’t end with Chandler’s arrest. Hunter also recounts his trial and eventual sentencing, in the process affording readers a glimpse of the public and private perceptions of Chandler’s heinous crimes.

Like any good true crime book, American Monster successfully balances factual accuracy with a gripping narrative. Readers are transported down a dark road, as the mystery falls into place, clue by painful clue. Hunter’s description of those clues is painstakingly meticulous, detailing every red herring in order to craft a thrilling final resolution. What emerges is the portrait of a man no one would think capable of murder: affable, helpful, and chatty, appearing like a “harmless old Charlie Brown” according to one of the characters in the book, and Hunter capitalizes on the disquiet of knowing a serial killer could be just a regular guy.

At times, particularly towards the end, the material becomes more of a court transcript than an immersing read: instances where Hunter gives a detailed play by play of the prosecutor’s questioning and the defense’s legal strategy may be too dry for some readers, but overall, Hunter is careful to balance this out with details about Chandler himself—his personality, his reactions, his lack of remorse—which all merge into a riveting character portrait. The end result is transfixing despite the darkness, and true crime aficionados will devour this book.

Takeaway: A gripping true crime account of the case against a shocking Florida serial killer.

Great for fans of: Charles Graeber’s The Good Nurse, Casey Sherman’s Hell Town.

Production grades
Cover: A-
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: A
Editing: A
Marketing copy: B+