Review: Chase Darkness With Me by Billy Jensen

 

Title: Chase Darkness With Me: How One True Crime Writer Started Solving Murders

Author: Billy Jensen

Published: August 16th 2029, Sourcebooks

Status: Read August 2019 courtesy Sourcebooks/Netgalley

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My Thoughts:

Chase Darkness With Me is a fascinating account of Billy Jensen’s passion for investigating unsolved crimes, and developing new strategies with which to solve them.

“Whenever people ask me why I only write about unsolved murders, I always say the same thing: because I hate the guy who got away with it.”

Jensen’s obsession with true crime began in childhood, inspired in part by his dad’s rather inappropriate bedtime stories. After earning a degree in Religion, and forays into a range of diverse professions including house painting, web marketing, and professional roller hockey, Jensen became a journalist. Landing a job as a stringer he was on course to be a crime beat reporter but quickly realised that he wasn’t comfortable just writing about the awful things that happened to people. He wanted to help, and turned his focus to the hundreds of thousands of missing persons, and unsolved murders mainstream media deemed ‘low profile’, eventually leading to the development of the website ‘True Crime Daily’, and a desire to reinvent the way true crime stories are told, and solved, through the use of television, mobile and web.

The potential of crowdsourcing crime solving is something Jensen often discussed with the late Michelle McNamara while she was in pursuit of identifying The Golden State Killer. After her untimely death, Jensen helped to complete her book, I’ll Be Gone In the Dark, and was motivated to take more direct action.

“I’m not chasing people. I’m chasing shadows, phantoms that flit in and out of a surveillance video. That’s on a good night. On the other nights, I’m chasing darkness.”

Of course online armchair detectives have been active for years, Websleuths was launched in 1999, and they recognised the potential of social media as a source for solving crime early on. Jensen however claims to be one of the first to recognise the value geotargeted social media campaigns could have to help solve crime and set out to prove his theory. In Chase Darkness With Me he documents several intriguing cases in which geotargeting, primarily using Facebook’s and Twitter’s ‘boost’ tools (funded from his own pocket), in combination with other methods, has assisted in generating new leads, and even arrests, in cases deemed ‘cold’ by the police. This, Jensen believes, is something anyone can do, and to that end he also provides tips and advice for anyone interested in becoming a ‘Citizen Detective’.

“We are at the precipice of being able to solve more cold cases than ever before…. we need to get loud. Start fund-raisers. Recruit volunteers. You reading this book are deputized. Go get a megaphone.”

I found Chase Darkness With Me to be absolutely compelling reading. I’m certain those interested in true crime, law enforcement or related topics, will also find it entertaining and informative.

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