Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Chase Darkness with Me by Billy Jensen

First read for September is done! I do like to read about true crime; usually I prefer to read forensic books about how crimes are solved through analysis, forensics, and good old fashioned smarts. However, this one is a bit different, in that Billy Jensen doesn't use forensics, but Facebook and Twitter to help solve crimes. 

Billy is a journalist, and for years he wrote about murders that remained unsolved. He partnered with Michelle McNamara, the author of I'll be Gone in the Dark, who sadly died suddenly before her book was finished. Michelle was obsessed with finding the serial killer she dubbed The Golden State Killer. Billy worked with her on a few crime podcasts and shows, and formed a firm friendship. Crushed by her sudden death, he turned his grief into action. He decided that he would pursue the killers of unsolved crimes after the police had given up. 

In this non-fiction crime tale, Billy talks about a few of the cases that began his new career as a crime solver. Each one of them is heartbreaking. Once case involved a Polish immigrant who became the only other murder in New York City on 9/11. Another involved a man who was in the wrong place at the wrong time, and was hit so hard by a stranger he fell into a crosswalk unconscious, and was subsequently run over by a taxi cab and killed. All captured on cameras. But not so easy to identify the killer and bring him to justice. Billy used a new crime solving tool: Facebook. Paying for ads, he created Facebook posts and targeted them to audiences that were near the areas the crimes took place. Sometimes he was successful, sometimes not. He realized he had to do more than just put the word out, and hope someone, somewhere would help. 

This was a very interesting read, especially concerning the use of social media, and the evolution of DNA testing and finding killers based on something brand new: tracing them based on family genetics via Ancestry and 21 and Me results. And this..this was how the Golden State Killer was finally caught, two years after Michelle's death, and many years after raping and murdering dozens of people and terrorizing a city. We are in a new era of crime fighting and soon new tools will be available that will make it even harder for criminals to hide. Crowdsourcing to fight crime is happening, thanks to social media. 

Now I've got an itch to check out a few true crime podcasts. I am horrified and disgusted at the disregard of human life so many people show; there is another part of me that is grateful there are people like Billy Jensen out there who work tirelessly to solve what was previously unsolvable. Thousands of murders go unsolved each year, but solving even just one brings closure to those left behind, and justice to those who died at the hands of others. 

Available in hardcover, ebook, and audio. 

Rating: 3/6 for a behind the scenes look at the evolving science of crime solving through the lens of journalism. Crimes that are haunting, and the people who take it all on to provide answers for families left behind to grieve. 


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