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The Most Dangerous Animal of All

3.61  ·  Rating details ·  4,844 ratings  ·  649 reviews
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-winn
Hardcover, 384 pages
Published May 13th 2014 by Harper (first published 2014)
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Average rating 3.61  · 
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 ·  4,844 ratings  ·  649 reviews

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May 12, 2014 rated it did not like it
The author, although I feel for his plight wastes 40% or more of the book filling you in on his background and his sad plight - which have 0-nothing to do with the murders.
Yes, you do eventually get to the background of his father - but you are also given history lessons on everyone ever encountered along the way. This may be a search for parentage novel, but it bores you to death and only furthers the reader to believe this guy is desperate to make anyone his father figure, even a murderer.
Jul 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is a fascinating book! The reviews are all over the place and I liked the parts that so many did not. Like the backstory of everyone and I especially loved the descriptions of the time period. It captured a time and place.

Gary Stewart was adopted as an infant and at the age of 39 his birth mother contacts him out of the blue. He is elated to know more about her. As their friendship grows he becomes increasinly curious about his father. Her memory is sketchy, but Gary presses on looking up n
Mike (the Paladin)
May 13, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: biography
This book is a little hard to rate and review. Let me say something up front here... I will put this under a spoiler warning for those who don't want to read it, but this claims to be a nonfiction book and this bears on that.

(view spoiler)
May 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I started reading this book with a lot of skepticism. HarperCollins was secretive about the book as a marketing ploy, which seems to have worked, since it's on the cover of People Magazine. But the book itself is extremely well-written and compelling. Even if Earl Van Best is not the Zodiac Killer, there are a lot of eerie coincidences between the killings, the Zodiac letters and ciphers, and Earl Van Best's life. Most of the reviews I have seen downplay Gary Stewart's faith in God, but I think ...more
Jun 15, 2014 rated it did not like it
This book reads like a fiction novel, which isn't bad for a non-fiction account. The first thing I noticed was Stewart taking on an omniscient narrator's point of view AND a first-person POV at the same time. I don't know why, but this narrative mixture threw me off. How am I supposed to believe someone describing a story as if he was there, when he wasn't even born yet?

For example, "My father could not help but notice the Old State Capitol." He was a baby, and his father was alone. How could he
Danusha Goska
Jun 01, 2014 rated it it was amazing
"The Most Dangerous Animal of All: Searching for My Father and Finding the Zodiac Killer" by Gary L. Stewart and Susan Mustafa is a beautifully written, gripping tale of family and murder. It's not just a true crime book. It's a memoir of an adopted man's reunion with his birth mother. It's a snapshot of deviant life in hippie-era San Francisco. It's a bit of kitchen-sink drama and film noir. It's about cops, what they do well and what they fail at. It's certainly a morality tale.

As a writer my
May 20, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I sort of regret reading this book. The topic seemed intriguing, but I spent the entire book waiting for the "wow" moment when the author would pull out the big guns and hit me with some hard evidence. I'm not sure about a physical copy, but the Kindle edition only had photos of the Zodiac letters and ciphers while the author mentions handwriting samples, photos of the people involved, geneological records that were not presented in Kindle edition. Perhaps I'd be more convinced if more of the "e ...more
Jammin Jenny
I wasn't sure I would like it but I really did like this man's search for his biological father, who just happened to be the Zodiac Killer. I haven't read much about that serial killer, but I knew he preyed on women in the San Francisco era from the movie I saw. I liked how the book told a bit of the back story on the person, and then when he starts talking to family members he finds that his father wasn't well liked at school or at home - this probably added to his serial rapist/killer urges.

G.H. Monroe
May 18, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: top-shelf-books
Before I began to read, I looked at the photos and immediately I found the handwriting comparisons to be VERY compelling. So I was convinced before I began to read. The more I read, the more little things I found that pulled me closer to certainty. I see motive, I see opportunity ... I see Cheri Jo Bates is a dead ringer for Judy Chandler and Cecilia Shepard is danged close. Then there's that eerie photograph of Earl Van Best Jr. ...more
Sep 16, 2014 rated it really liked it
An excellent book. I find that I am rarely a fan of true crime books that claim to have solved old cases (Jack the Ripper is a favorite victim of this as is the Black Dahlia). It's pretty rare to find one that has evidence that holds up--I know that the "Black Dahlia Avenger" is a big favorite among true crime fans but I thought it was crap--the photos are not even close to resembling the Dahlia for one thing--don't get me started). To say I was wary when I grabbed this from the library would be ...more
Andrea Salayová
So, when I first heard about this book I was like "this guy couldn´t possibly think his biological father is zodiac killer, that is ridiculous!" But guess what? It really might be true. There is the striking similarity, huge amount of circumstanstial evidence and even hard evidence, that would stand in the court (comparison of the handwriting). If you are intrigued now, you should really read the book, because you get much much more.

The book is written well and it reads like fiction, but not to
Chris Dietzel
Aug 03, 2021 rated it did not like it
If this was sold as complete fiction it might be okay, but as a supposed nonfiction it's a huge waste of time. Stewart invented "facts" to try and make his case stronger. He also exaggerated other info to try and make the case more compelling, while completely ignoring facts that easily disprove the notion that his dad was the Zodiac Killer. Stewart's accounts have been completely debunked and yet he is desperate to hold onto the notion that his dad killed people. Very odd and very sad. ...more
May 15, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction, 2014
I'll start with the good news first: it's a solid premise with some VERY interesting details. This story about an adopted man finding his birth-mother, and then trying to piece together his father's life is highly intriguing. Not just because he comes to the conclusion that his father very well could be the Zodiac serial killer, but the story in his hands is great - a proven predator, a kidnapping, under-age marriage, a baby left in an apartment building, various arrests, the escalating mood of ...more
Jul 01, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've read most books on serial killers, and I always thought the Zodiac killer had never been caught, but this voluminously researched book by an author who discovers that he is the Zodiac's son, obsessively details the steps, the interviews, the correspondence, and the document searches that establish his case beyond any doubt. This is a fascinating book, especially because it just starts with an orphan trying to track down his biological father and ends with him visiting the unmarked grave of ...more
Jun 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2018
Wow, this book was fascinating! The author was adopted after being abandoned in a stairwell as an infant. As an adult he is found by his biological mother, and then he starts to search for his biological father...what unfolds is a disturbing story about a man who endures a difficult childhood, dabbles in the occult, elopes with a 14 year old girl, and allegedly turns into the Zodiac serial killer.

All that sounds pretty grim, but I enjoyed the book so much because the author also weaves in his st
So, this is the second of these kind of books I've read where the author is pretty damn sure HIS father was the ZODIAC serial killer. This one had me a slim more convinced then the other, (Most Evil by I forget), one I had read. It makes you think about who it might have been. Did he die? Is he still alive? Is he in prison for another crime? This book goes in depth with his journey to find the authors biological father. Now, if I was orphaned and then went looking to only find clues one of my pa ...more
May 14, 2014 rated it liked it
I must state that I enjoyed this story, but felt it was more of a memoir versus a book on identifying The Zodiac Killer. The evidence given was circumstantial. Granted the circumstantial evidence was strong, but not nail in the coffin that one would get with DNA evidence. The author identifies a "coverup" done more as a protection of him. I found this to be highly implausible and more to explain why no DNA match even though he gave his DNA and there is a partial DNA match to The Zodiac Killer.

Apr 25, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: true-crime
Interesting topic, but the author needs to cut out about 75% of his boring droning on about his experiences. I wouldn't have been surprised if he gave a second-by-second account of his trip to the bathroom -- that's how much unnecessary detail about his own life he included. There are so many boring asides that add nothing to the overall story. Look, your family and friends care about these details of your emotional life, but the people reading your book just don't. ...more
Aug 20, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: true-crime
Back in the 70's my parents had a book about the Zodiac Killer on their shelves. Being a curious kid I picked it up, and man, did it scar me. I had nightmares for weeks and the worst part of all was that he was never caught. Graphic descriptions of horrific murders embedded into my psyche and I remembered the murders years later when I saw Gary L. Stewarts book claiming his birth father was non other than Zodiac himself.

Remembering how thoroughly messed up the Zodiac saga left me, it was with q
It's hard to know what to make of this. Gary Stewart starts out looking for his birth father, and ends by concluding Dad was the Zodiac killer. His suspicion isn't a total stretch, but it's hardly conclusive, either. He blames his failure on the police, who wouldn't turn over records to him or compare his DNA to partial DNA collected during the police investigations of the killings. Neither thing might have supported the premise here. But a "no" from police, who say it to journalists all the tim ...more
John Grauerholz
Jan 05, 2020 rated it did not like it
Surely the most dispiriting & disappointing books ever written have got to be those tomes published in the true-crime genre. I don't know why, but the worst of the batch seem to be those that claim to have discovered the true identity of the Zodiac Killer – and the most unconvincing, unpersuasive of the lot is The Most Dangerous Animal of All.

Adopted children are never quite sound, and the most unbalanced are those chaps who come to believe that their biological fathers are actually serial kille
”I like killing people because it is so much fun it is more fun than killing wild game in the forrest because man is the most dangerous animal of all”

EDIT: 04/28/2020- (view spoiler)
Feb 20, 2016 rated it liked it
well, I read this in one sitting (lying down), in about 4 1/2 hours. I was really in the mood to read, though. it was interesting - basically this guy who is adopted is found by his birth mother and then decides to look for his birth father, who turns out to be the zodiac killer, which has been an unsolved serial killer case. I guess the story is that when you come at the mystery from a different angle, when you know the person and put them together with the crimes, it's easier than knowing the ...more
Normally I am a sucker for a true crime read, in this case, not so much. This felt like it should be two different books. Stewart's adoption story is interesting in itself, and not a bad read. That, and how he found his birth mom, could make up one story. The second story should be called, "Why I Think I Found the Zodiac Killer".
I was not convinced that Stewart's father was a serial killer. There are tons of bad people in the world, that doesn't make them The Zodiac. I can see why the author fo
1.5 stars rounded up mostly because I don't want to give it one star...

There's a lot to complain about with this audio book. The author reads it and he speaks soooo sloooowly that it was too much for me to take. Ended up speeding the narration up to 2.5x the normal. Still ended up fast forwarding through some bits that had absolutely nothing to do with anything - like his adoptive father needing help getting dressed for his wedding anniversary because he's color blind.

If you're looking for a bo
Chastity Pro bono
May 22, 2014 rated it liked it
This was an interesting but in no way conclusive read. Gary L Stewart does a good job of presenting a compelling case for his father being the Zodiac and Susan Mustafa does a good job of shaping the information into an enjoyable read.

Two factors stop me from marking this higher, and neither are the fault of the author(s): many, many others have claimed their father was the Zodiac (so many in fact that San Fran must have an epidemic of abusive fathers!) and presented plausible information to sup
Claire Keating
Jun 27, 2014 rated it really liked it
Gahhh, this book started off so fun, but the last 30% or so was so unnecessary. I think the author didn't realize that, while he came to this book while searching for his father, this book is not about him. I loved the introduction about meeting his birth mother, but the weird personal family stuff at the end...yeesh.

That being said, it was so entertaining! The author not only presents a good case that is father is the Zodiac (circumstantial as it may be), but his story would be pretty interesti
Aug 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: crime, read-in-2014
This was a fantastic book. Whether this man's father really was the Zodiac killer - though the evidence is damn convincing - it was a great read. The story unfolds more like a memoir of the Zodiac killer, but I think that's necessary. You need to get the background to understand the magnitude of making such a discovery. It's a gripping read - give it a go! ...more
Aug 07, 2015 rated it really liked it
Fascinating and surprisingly well written. I love true crime and already knew a lot about the Zodiac killer, but this was still a great read.
Emma Rund
Feb 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
3.5 stars. Fascinating, pretty convincing, but obviously very biased. Not five stars because the writing annoyed me a little.
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Gary L. Stewart earned his bachelor of science degree in electrical engineering from Louisiana State University and is vice president of Delta Tech Service of Louisiana. Ten years ago, Gary began writing a journal, chronicling every detail of his search for his father and his own identity. That journal served as the basis for The Most Dangerous Animal of All. Gary resides in Louisiana with his wif ...more

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