"I Will Find You," by Lt. Joe Kenda, Book Review
Solving killer cases is what Joe Kenda did for over twenty years with an impressive success rate when it came to finding the perpetrator(s) and bringing them to justice. He first came to notoriety in the television series, Homicide Hunter, where his look-alike, Carl Marino, plays the younger version of Joe Kenda as they reenact case histories.
The former lieutenant, known for his "dead-pan zingers," has also written a novel about his life of fighting crime. What makes this a page-turner, beyond the voyeurism aspect of his tales, is the way he states the obvious with glib insight into the dark humor of a police officer.
Lt. Kenda speaks about the trio of motives for murder being money, sex, and revenge or sometimes a combination of these. He mentions a Bible verse that many people seem to get wrong reminding readers that it isn't money that's the root of all evil, but the love of money which factors into the downfall of relationships between family members, romantic involvements or random acts of violence between strangers.
He shares that, "Crazy comes in so many option packages." And crazy is clearly a motive in some of the cases he's solved.
Due to the increased cost of ammunition there will no longer be warning shots."— Joe Kenda
He talks about guns in a frank and open manner, about their history, their evolution and their necessity in crime prevention. Kenda says, “Law enforcement leaders learned their lesson after the 1965 Watts riots, when police officers quickly discovered that the people shooting at them had more firepower than the police." When someone is shooting an automatic rifle in your direction, you can’t easily respond wielding only a baton without serious consequences.
We became a country by armed revolution. Guns are a part of American culture."— Lt. Kenda
In I Will Find You, Kenda shares additional detail about cases that are considered too disturbing or too graphic for television. As an active police officer, he could expect to receive a phone call any hour of the day or night knowing that his presence would be required at crime scenes so gruesome it's hard for an average person to imagine.
He talks about what it's like to be ripped away from family events, anniversary dinners, date nights, football games, vacations, time with his children, even from events like filling the gas tank of his vehicle for investigations that couldn't wait. When the report of another homicide came in, he was at the top of the list of who to call. Being a homicide detective doesn't fit into a standard eight-to-five mold.
Blue Light Special
During one of the cases he handled as a uniformed officer, he describes a street brawl involving multiple participants. This call put him directly in the path of an armed perpetrator hiding behind a female being used as a human shield. Without waiting for backup Officer Kenda, who was a Sergeant at the time, charged blindly into the mob attempting to break up the disturbance.
When he fell to the pavement and was rendered unconscious, he was fortunate that someone in a nearby business called 911 to report that an officer had been shot. Joe describes the scene with his standard dose of dry wit saying, "Nothing orders up a blue-light special more than the report of an officer down."
Profile of a Murderer
"The vast majority of murderers are male, except when they aren't," he says stating that he believes that most killers feel justified in murdering their victim. He speaks about the most vulnerable of victims - prostitutes - that "jump into cars with strangers like it's their job."
His description of one particularly evil killer was chilling. The suspect's outward appearance was perfectly normal with a wife and kids and a regular job. After six and a half hours of interrogation the suspect finally dropped the good guy facade and displayed the darkness of his soul.
"Well, all right, then, welcome to the party, Mr. Hyde." It's the reason why so many fans love Joe Kenda and his wit regarding criminals and their activities.
He goes on to mention that what he really wanted to do to this "deranged man-beast" across the interview room table. It's a good feeling to know that cops feel anger at the heinous deeds of criminals. His moral outrage at the deeds of this particular guy restores one's faith in humanity, justice and the American way.
Forgiveness and Understanding
When it comes to murderers, who would guess that they have "a desire to be forgiven and understood?" This, the detective tells us leads many of them to confess their crimes, trying to justify their actions or rationalize their circumstances about how they were provoked.
Joe Kenda developed his own interrogation technique unique to him which appears to have worked in many cases. He allowed the detectives that reported to him to also develop their own preferred methods, each with their own manner of questioning to get through to the criminal and get the facts. He admits to early mistakes he made that blew his chances for gaining a confession and says he's not one to play "good cop, bad cop." He believes that being a good listener is key to confession.
"If you're going to be a liar, you should at least have the decency to be good at it."— Lt. Joe Kenda
Lt. Kenda also talks about his family, his heritage, his parents, his children. One funny story he shares describes what happened when he tried to teach his children to stay away from the guns he had in his home. He describes how children will tend to find whatever you hide. His brilliant idea was to frighten them against using guns by demonstrating their destructive nature and their blasting noise. Somehow, this tactic backfired on him.
Fortunately, the event turned into a weekend adventure where the whole family could share time together and became a routine outing for the Kenda family. Each of them became proficient in the proper use and handling of guns. The family that shoots together . . .
One story Joe shares is told by his daughter, who, as an adult is an expert marks person serving in a military role. At a grocery store one night, she came to the aid of a fellow shopper against a lewd, obnoxious brute. Her protective nature and fortitude shows her true heritage as Joe's offspring.
I Will Find You, Solving Killer Cases from my Life Fighting Crime is a fascinating book that describes the life of a public servant charged with investigating the onslaught of crime and senseless violence. The enduring hours, the gruesome nature of the work involved and the interruptive nature of the hours he put into his job makes me appreciate a job with standard business hours.
It's impressive that Joe Kenda and his wife survived the ordeal after all the broken dates, interrupted celebrations, bloody clothes, sleepless nights and heartbreaking drama and remain a happily married couple. The book is fascinating and provides grounds for appreciation of our police force and their jobs.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2018 Peg Cole