The Most Dangerous Animal of All

The Most Dangerous Animal of All

Searching for My Father--and Finding the Zodiac Killer

Book - 2014
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A New York Times Bestseller
A San Francisco Chronicle Bestseller

Soon after his birthmother contacted him for the first time at the age of thirty-nine, adoptee Gary L. Stewart decided to search for his biological father. His quest would lead him to a horrifying truth and force him to reconsider everything he thought he knew about himself and his world.

Written with award-winning author and journalist Susan Mustafa, The Most Dangerous Animal of All tells the story of Stewart's decade-long hunt. While combing through government records and news reports and tracking down relatives and friends, Stewart turns up a host of clues--including forensic evidence--that conclusively identify his father as the Zodiac Killer, one of the most notorious and elusive serial murderers in history.

For decades, the Zodiac Killer has captivated America's imagination. His ability to evade capture while taunting authorities made him infamous. The vicious specificity of his crimes terrified Californians before the Manson murders and after, and shocked a culture enamored with the ideals of the dawning Age of Aquarius. To this day, his ciphers have baffled detectives and amateur sleuths, and his identity remains one of the twentieth century's great unsolved mysteries.

The Most Dangerous Animal of All reveals the name of the Zodiac for the very first time. Mustafa and Stewart construct a chilling psychological profile of Stewart's father: as a boy with disturbing fixations, a frustrated intellectual with pretensions to high culture, and an inappropriate suitor and then jilted lover unable to process his rage. At last, all the questions that have surrounded the case for almost fifty years are answered in this riveting narrative. The result is a singular work of true crime at its finest--a compelling, unbelievable true story told with the pacing of a page-turning novel--as well as a sensational and powerful memoir.

Publisher: New York : Harper, c2014.
ISBN: 9780062313164
Characteristics: x, 367 pages, [16] pages of plates :,illustrations (some color), portraits (some color) ;,24 cm.
Additional Contributors: Mustafa, Susan D.


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Jun 02, 2017

Starts of fluffy, a lot of detail in my opinion isn't relevant. The cold hard facts and potentially incriminating evidence doesn't come until near the very end with no mention (from what I can remember) throughout the book. In my opinion more evidence pointing towards Gary's biological dad being at the scenes of the murders needs to be provided. You can't just say well he was in the state at the time so... it's possible that he was there on the night of, or he went to and from the coast to Mexico a lot so anything is possible. Wasn't a terribly exciting read. A lot of theory without a lot of proven fact. A couple of interesting facts about Van's background and upbringing that could've provided the fuel for the fire.

TSCPL_KyleM May 15, 2016

Interesting Zodiac theory... but it's hard to determine if things line up because we want them to or because they are in fact true. There are some holes in the story. I did think it was curiously odd that they went ahead and published this book before any definitive DNA results were produced...

Fascinating story and well written. I sayed up till 4am to finish it.

Sep 14, 2014

I recommend this book to people who want to understand the dark side of human nature. This portrait of Earl Van Best Jr, a man who abandoned his child from the perspective of the child who was abandoned, made me despair a little. And it made me think a little about the dangers of becoming taken over by the Zodiac case.

However, it failed to convince me that Earl Van Best Jr was the Zodiac killer. To be sure, his mug shot does resemble the wanted poster, but not so exactly as the author seems to feel. The handwriting analysis struck me as being based on too few samples to be definitive. The conclusions drawn from an examination of the Zodiac ciphers is unconvincing. It works backwards from the answer to prove that the ciphers support the answer. The same reasoning will support other answers as well. I don't feel the claim that other names could not be found in the cipher will bear examination.

The author's claim that all of Zodiac's female victims resembled his mother is simply baffling. To begin with, I cannot see that Betty Lou Jensen particularly resembled any other victim. But more damaging, the author spends time showing how the Zodiac killed out of hatred of one woman... and skates over any motive for the killing of cab driver Paul Stine.

This book has a gripping theory that it fails to support.

Aug 19, 2014

A fascinating read that seems to fit pieces together quite well. I appreciate the use of extensive forensics and the very real exposition on the struggles the author faced.

d2013 Jun 23, 2014

Truly a book you can't put down. Well written!

Jun 06, 2014

Reads like a page-turning novel but is a true story. five stars.

Tomhoran0827 May 25, 2014

According to the actual police department files from the original murder cases, there was no "Zodiac Killer," only some phony letters to the SF Chronicle claiming credit for some unrelated murders, followed by an exploitative book full of falsehoods by Robert Graysmith (real name: Robert Smith, Jr):

Over the last few years, all of the actual police department and FBI files related to the so-called "Zodiac" murders have become available in the public domain. It's over 2500 pages of material, but the most essential 1000 pages can be seen here:

If you'd like a free "study guide" for reading these documents (and for debunking Robert Smith aka Robert Graysmith's "non" fiction book ZODIAC) you can start here:

Or here:

Compare Wakshull's "verification" of the handwriting of Earl Best, Jr to THIS handwriting:

If you're interested.

Peter_Stephens May 19, 2014

I haven't read this book, but-- I have read the two by Robert Graysmith ZODIAC and the sequel ZODIAC UNMASKED wherein he named the killer. I usually steer well clear of True Crime but these books are terrific and the basis of the Hollywood movie. Officially, the Zodiac Killer has never been identified. This new book presents another point of veiw...

May 19, 2014

Very well written and researched. May be considered by some a controversial theory as to the identity of the Zodiac killer. Narrative seems like it could be believable. The book also was very interesting because it was about the search of an adopted son for his biological mother and father. I enjoyed reading it.

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