Estimated reading time: 7 minutes
Billy Jensen is without a doubt one of the more special and influential investigative journalists in the domain of true crime, having essentially pioneered the modern citizen detective movement. In his non-fiction book titled Chase Darkness with Me, he takes us with him on his journey to finding the truth behind some unsolved murders, namely identifying the Halloween Mask Murderer, finding a missing girl in the Redwoods, and investigating the one other murder which happened in New York City on 9/11.
Table of contents
Billy Jensen Introduces us to the World of Crime Solving
I think I speak for the majority of us when I say there is some form of shared duty and satisfaction when it comes to solving murders. Few things could be conceivably more important or tragic than the death human beings, and as a civilization a certain responsibility falls on all of us to try and contain the harmful elements of society.
Finding a murderer not only brings the potential for some sort of justice, but most importantly, the knowledge of having saved the lives of their potential future victims. While most of us relegate our murder-solving fantasies to books, games and movies, Billy Jensen decided to take up this duty in real life, and in Chase Darkness with Me he takes us along for the incredible ride.
For those who, like me, had no idea who Billy Jensen was before having a look at this book, he is an investigative journalist specializing in true crime, specifically unsolved murder cases. For over fifteen years he investigated various unsolved crimes in an attempt to bring some closure to the grieving families and bring justice to killers who escaped it. His career, however, took an unexpected turn with the sudden and tragic passing of his dear friend, Michelle McNamara, author of I’ll Be Gone in the Dark.
Becoming fed up with his years of failure to find actual resolutions, he came up with a plan to investigate past the point where the police tend to give up. In Chase Darkness with Me, we namely ride alongside him as he identifies who the Halloween Mask Murderer is, searches for a missing girl in the Redwoods of California, and investigates the only other murder which happened in New York city on 9/11, overshadowed by obvious events.
Additionally, he shares his thoughts and memories on his pursuit of the murderer of the Allenstown Four, as well as his friend Michelle’s quest to find the Golden State Killer. Along the way, he also imparts on us the tools we can use ourselves to perhaps one day make a real difference.
The Path of a Real Sleuth
Where exactly does an unusual person begin when writing a book about themselves? Well, as logic would dictate, it begins with an introduction of Billy and the path which led him to where he is today. While he obviously glosses over the unimportant elements from his formative years, he does take the time to build and contextualize his world, enough to give the reader a window into the kind of person he is at his core: tenacious, perseverant, and never satisfied with failure. He even takes the time to mention a few of his nerdy interests, which do lighten the mood of the whole book in a needed way.
The truly interesting elements of the book begin to show themselves when the authors starts talking about his career as an investigative journalist and the various cases which drew his interest and led him down the road of a true crime career. Not knowing Billy’s work beforehand, I can’t say I was familiar with the majority of the cases he discussed, but rest assured he gives more than enough details for us to understand what made them noteworthy in his eyes. As you might imagine, since we are dealing with murder cases, there are some very dark and heavy passages which you’ll hardly be able to shake out of your head.
As we follow him along his storied career to where he is today, Jensen does take various opportunities to convey his points of view on various social and political topics, and to my relief he did not tread the line of political correctness and vagueness. He takes strong stances of various issues such as gun control and the death penalty, supporting his points of view with rather solid arguments.
If you happen to disagree with his notions, it might make him less relatable as a person, but ultimately I don’t think it takes away from the main feature of this book: the solving of murders. Just be prepared and remember the author is a human being with his own beliefs and ideas, and they might run contrary to yours.
The Methods of a Detective
Like I just mentioned, the main attraction of Chase Darkness with Me is the author’s thorough explanation of his methods for solving crimes. He spares no expense or detail in tracing from A to Z each and every step he takes when investigating virtually any kind of case.
Slowly but surely, he paints a picture for the reader, one which says crime solving isn’t something to be exclusively reserved for paid detectives. It’s genuinely fascinating to explore all the tools and methods readily available at our disposal, and just how much we could get collectively done if even half of us followed Jensen on this quest. The best part about it is every time you think he has just shown all of his cards, the next chapter brings some new twist to the formula, a new approach or clever trick to be added to our toolbox.
While I’m certain he didn’t have to time go over every single case he ever had, Jensen does have a knack for choosing the ones which will hook the reader in some way and keep them intrigued just long enough until the next case comes along. I have to mention at this point, Jensen‘s talents as a writer are definitely something to write home about, with his narration being simple and yet still descriptive when focusing on the curious details of any given case. As a matter of fact, it almost feels as if you’re sitting down with a friend across from you and listening to their crazy story.
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While taking us on a ride through his own adventures, Jensen also makes sure to give us, the readers, plenty of tips and resources should we choose to follow in his footsteps. From the various websites and channels we can use to find information about citizens and events to the ways in which we ought to approach different people related to the case, Jensen does his best to leave no stone unturned. If you want to try and give crime-solving a shot for yourself, I think the materials in this book will be sufficient to get you started.
The Final Verdict
Chase Darkness with Me by Billy Jensen is without a doubt one of the more enlightening and unique true crime books I have had the pleasure of reading recently. We explore not only the life of an amazing individual, but also learn how we can investigate unsolved cases through Billy’s own real-life examples. An exceptional book through and through, I highly recommend this to anyone even remotely interested in true crimes, especially if you have an itch to do some investigating yourself.
Billy Jensen is an American true crime investigative journalist, author and producer whose main focus has been unsolved crimes, crowdsolving and the concept of citizen detectives. He has a master’s degree in religious studies from the University of Kansas, in addition to which he was also a professional roller hockey player.
He helped finish I’ll Be Gone in the Dark after his friend Michelle McNamara’s passing and has authored Chase Darkness with Me, chronicling his own successes in digging out the truth in unsolved murders.