Chase Darkness with Me
by Billy Jensen
Genre: True Crime
Release date: April 11, 2019
Publisher: Audible Audio
Have you ever wanted to solve a murder? Gather the clues the police overlooked. Put together the pieces. Identify the suspect.
Journalist Billy Jensen spent 15 years investigating unsolved murders, fighting for the families of victims. Every story he wrote had one thing in common – it didn’t have an ending. The killer was still out there.
But after the sudden death of a friend, crime writer Michelle McNamara, Billy became fed up. Following a dark night, he came up with a plan. A plan to investigate past the point when the cops have given up. A plan to solve the murders himself.
In Chase Darkness with Me, you’ll ride shotgun as Billy identifies the Halloween Mask Murderer, finds a missing girl in the California Redwoods, and investigates the only other murder in New York City on 9/11. You’ll hear intimate details of the hunts for two of the most terrifying serial killers in history: his friend Michelle’s pursuit of the Golden State Killer which is chronicled in I’ll Be Gone In The Dark, a book Billy helped finish after Michelle’s passing, and his own quest to find the murderer of the Allenstown 4 family.
Gripping, complex, unforgettable, Chase Darkness with Me is an examination of the evil forces that walk among us, illustrating a novel way to catch those killers, and a true crime narrative unlike any you’ve listened to before.
My thanks to Audible for allowing me free access to this audio book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own and are not influenced by the publisher. This audio book is currently an Audible Exclusive.
True crime can be a touchy subject. What are the ethics of consuming someone else’s tragedy as entertainment? Jensen’s work and the way he works to essentially crowd-source murder investigations means that this book necessarily tangles with some of the thornier ethical questions surrounding true crime. The overall impression is of a man with deep respect for the wishes of families searching for answers about their loved ones; there is no hint of voyeurism or sensationalism.
Chase Darkness with Me explores Jensen’s early work as a journalist, working at the beck and call of news organizations and being told what to cover. After experiencing the shame and discomfort of being pressed to pester a grieving family for an interview, he decided to do things his own way, which would not involve sitting idly on the sidelines. Jensen began digging into unsolved crimes, using social media ads to blast targeted areas with surveillance footage, sketches of suspects, or whatever else he had to work with. The method is simple but effective. Jensen walks the listener through the twists and turns of the cases he was able to help solve with the aid of the public and social media.
Michelle McNamara, author of I’ll be Gone in the Dark and friend of Billy Jensen, also plays a role in this book. Jensen was one of the writers who helped to complete I’ll be Gone in the Dark from Michelle’s notes after her sudden death in 2016. Chase Darkness with Me touches on Jensen’s friendship with Michelle and his efforts to ensure that her tireless research into the then unsolved case of the Golden State Killer was not wasted. Michelle McNamara unfortunately passed away before police ever made an arrest in the case, but Jensen was able to see his friend’s work come to fruition in 2018 with the arrest of James DeAngelo. (The official stance of police is that Michelle’s book did not have an impact on the case, but Jensen and many of Michelle’s fans have their doubts.)
The book is as much a call to action as it is storytelling, with an addendum outlining the do’s and don’ts for readers who may want to do investigative work of their own. Jensen’s rules place the wishes of the victims’ families at the forefront and also emphasize the importance of backing off when police have a suspect in their sights; the last thing anyone investigating a crime wants to do is give the culprit a heads-up that they’re being watched closely and cause them to run. While extra-judicial investigative work is necessarily controversial, Jensen clearly adheres to a strict set of guidelines which maximize his chance of being an asset rather than a liability.
Chase Darkness with Me is true crime at its best, told with utmost care and compassion for the victims of each case. It’s not true crime writing in the typical sense, as the author has inserted himself into these stories in a much more direct manner than most writers, but I think the writing is stronger for it. Each case is intensely personal to Jensen and this absolutely shines through in the final product.
Thank you for reading! Do you have any thoughts on the ethics of true crime writing? Please share your thoughts in the comments!