I Will Find You, Detective Lt. Joe Kenda, Book Review
Meet Joe Kenda
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 quotes a Bible verse that many people seem to get wrong despite their frequent use of the phrase. He knows that it isn't money that's the root of all evil. Whether it's between family members, a romantic involvement or even a random act of violence between strangers, it's the love of money which factors into the downfall of relationships.
He also knows that, "Crazy comes in so many option packages." And crazy is clearly a motive in some of the cases he has solved.
For the love of money is the root of all evil."— I Timothy 6:10
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. Joe Kenda
In the book, Kenda talks about cases that are too disturbing or graphic for television. Day after day, night after night he received calls that would take him into horrific crime scenes that flood memories with unforgettable details so gruesome it's hard to imagine. He speaks about being ripped from family events, anniversaries, date nights, football games, time with his children, even from mundane events like filling the gas tank of his vehicle, with calls that that couldn't wait when the report of another homicide came in. The life of homicide detective doesn't fit into an eight-to-five mold.
In one of the cases that took place during his time as a uniformed officer, he describes the scene of a street brawl involving multiple participants in which he was personally the target of a perpetrator with a gun hiding behind the body of a female he was using as a shield. Without waiting for backup, Kenda, who was a Sergeant at the time, charged into the mob trying to break up the disturbance.
When he fell to the pavement and was rendered unconscious, he was incredibly fortunate that someone in a nearby business called 911 reporting that an officer had been shot. Joe describes the scene with his normal dry humor by saying, "Nothing orders up a blue-light special more than the report of an officer down."
Profile of a Murderer
Detective Joe says, "The vast majority of murderers are male, except when they aren't." He firmly 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 torturer/killer will send chills down your spine. After six and a half hours of interrogation when the suspect finally broke through the "good guy" exterior and displayed the darkness of his soul, Joe's reaction was amazingly glib. Well all right, then, he thinks. Welcome to the party, Mr. Hyde. It's exactly why we love Joe Kenda. He's so matter of fact when it comes to criminal activity.
Although he does mention what he really wanted to do to this "deranged man-beast" across the interview room table. His moral outrage at the sinister deeds of this one particular guy restores our faith in humanity, justice and the American way. It's a good feeling to know that cops feel anger at the heinous deeds of criminals.
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 talks about how children will tend to find whatever you hide so his idea was to frighten them against using guns by demonstrating their destructive nature and their blasting noise. Of course, this tactic backfired on him.
Fortunately, it turned into a weekend adventure where the whole family could share time together and ultimately become proficient in the proper use and handling of guns. Imagine the memes that could go along with that sort of training. The family that shoots together . . .
One poignant story Joe (May I call you Joe?) shares is told by his daughter who, as an adult, serves in a military role. She’s now an expert marks person. She told about an experience in the grocery store where she came to the aid of a fellow shopper against a lewd, obnoxious brute. I definitely would like to have her on my side if that ever happens to me.
In summary, the book I Will Find You, Solving Killer Cases from my Life Fighting Crime, despite it's graphic topic is an easy read that describes in detail 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 serves to make me grateful for a job with standard hours.
It's amazing and impressive that with all the broken dates, shortchanged celebrations, bloody clothes, sleepless nights and heartbreaking drama that Joe Kenda and his wife and family survived the ordeal. It makes for a fascinating read and a renewed appreciation for our police force.
© 2018 Peg Cole