The Postcard Killings: Is Jacob Kanon Based on an Actual Detective?

In ‘The Postcard Killer,’ a crime mystery film, international police departments across varying European cities, from London and Munich to Stockholm, join forces to catch a serial killer, leaving a string of bodies in their wake. Each new town brings a new pair of victims, their bodies staged into art pieces, and one singular postcard delivered by the elusive murderer to the local journalists. Within this joint task force, one American Detective, Jacob Kanon, doggedly seeking justice for his daughter’s brutish murder, inserts himself into the investigation and attempts to crack the killer’s theatric trail.

Following Jacob’s primary perspective, the film presents a father’s hellbent pursuit of his daughter’s sadistic killer, leaving no stone unturned in his quest for revenge and retribution. Thus, the character’s history as a veteran cop with plenty of experience with such twisted cases seamlessly propels the plot forward, allowing him to undertake the investigation with swift expertise alongside raw emotions. Consequently, the question arises: is there any real-life connection between Detective Jacob and real life?

Jacob Kanon is a Fictional But Familiar Detective

No, Jacob Kanon from ‘The Postcard Killings’ is not based on an actual detective. The film itself is an adaptation of a 2010 crime fiction novel, ‘The Postcard Killers,’ written in joint collaboration by American writer James Patterson and Swedish author Liza Marklund. In swapping e-mails and early drafts, the pair of writers crafted Jacob’s character and the world around him, ensuring an immersive and intriguing experience.

Therefore, most elements explored within the film, including protagonist Jacob and his base storyline, are lifted from the pages of Patterson and Marklund’s novel. Furthermore, whatever changes his character underwent during the film’s extensive development period can be credited to the various screenwriters who worked on the film. Thus, Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s character is entirely rendered in fictionality as another addition of jaded literary detectives brought to life through the big screen.

Yet, for the same reason, Jacob’s character also remains irrefutably familiar to the audience as he carries invisible threads of similarities to numerous other fictional detectives. Over the years, audiences have loved the stories of a number of remarkable detectives in crime fiction novels, from the evergreen Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot to the more niche Harry Hole or Alex Cross.

Since these characters were immensely popular among literary fans through their respective novels, they were adapted to the screen, gaining further recognition and adoration— some more so than others. Consequently, Jacob Kanon remains another alumnus of the same group.

On the other hand, Jacob’s narrative, which explores the misery and desperation of a grieving father as he throws himself into investigating his daughter’s killers, also remains reminiscent of a familiar character design. The trope of a vengeful father, as explored in other media like ‘Taken’ and ‘Blood Father,’ among other films, holds a naturally compelling emotional element. As a result, audiences easily sympathize with the characters, remaining invested in their circumstances.

For the same reason, Jacob Kanon’s character immediately feels like a fleshed-out individual since the viewers see him carry authentic and intense feelings like grief and helpless anguish from the film’s start. With an emotional storyline established from the start, the narrative effortlessly builds upon the detective aspect of the character through the riveting case ahead of him that takes him to multiple cities across Europe. As such, his overall storyline remains equal parts thrilling and engaging.

Therefore, as a result of Jacob’s character design and crime-driven genre, his revenge plot as a father figure becomes ripe with all the makings of an exhilarating mystery. Nevertheless, outside of genre conventions and familiar screen presence, Jacob’s character holds little to no connections to reality. Neither Patterson nor Marklund have been known to cite any real-life inspirations for Jacob, with the former specifically preferring to keep his literary endeavors fictitious. Ultimately, Jacob Kanon makes for a compelling detective, on-screen and as a literary figure, but remains a work of fabrication.

Read More: The Postcard Killings Ending, Explained