What is this about?: What makes a person want to investigate a crime? Want to look at videos over and over, and talk to person after person trying to find a new angle into a crime? This isn’t your normal sort of crime or true crime book. Instead Billy Jensen offers listeners an intimate look at what made him sit down in front of his computer and start investigating why someone died.
What else is this about?: It’s a memoir, I think, the kind that draws you with easy, relatable prose around a topic that you may otherwise never normally understand well. In addition to his own work, Billy Jensen lets listeners in to his friendship with Michelle McNamara, their work together and his determination to help finish her book.
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 which Billy helped finish after Michelle’s passing, and his own quest to find the murderer of the Allenstown 4 family.
And Billy gives you the tools – and the rules – to help solve murders yourself.
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.
With a foreword by Karen Kilgariff of My Favorite Murder.
When I first started listening to Chase Darkness with Me, I expected something much like Evil Has a Name, the Audible show from Paul Holes, an investigator who spent 20 years investigating the case of the Golden State Killer. Holes’ story is very much that of an investigator, but compelling for the different insight that he brought to a case that exploded in the public consciousness recently.
Billy Jensen, however, is a writer, a journalist, and that makes for a different, but no less compelling insight into himself and his desire to investigate crime, his relationship with Michelle McNamara and the GSK.
How do you become an citizen detective?
For Jensen, it started with his father and in a way bedtime stories of true crime. In every word about his father, it’s clear how much Jensen loved him, and more importantly how much his father influenced him.
But, it was the death of Marques Gaines that prompted him to start seriously investigating the murder. And invent a way of using social media to source information.
From his childhood to his university days and his career as a journalist, I was never not engrossed in this story. Jensen is, I don’t know how to describe it other than to say, it’s kind of like having a conversation with someone over dinner and while the topic may not be conventional it’s fascinating.
The cases, helping the people who are looking for answers about their loved ones mean so much to Jensen — that much is clear.
That need to do something oozes out of every story, every case that hit a dead end, and even those that he succeeded in, because there’s always the next one and the next one and the next one.
In addition to details of the cases, Jensen details investigations — and techniques using social media that helped him find information he passed on to the cops, and even find a fugitive in Mexico one time. These parts can be dry at times, but still it fascinates me the power of social media.
I’ll be Gone in the Dark
The thing about Michelle and Jensen is that they were friends long before she thought of writing the book. They worked on true crime together — on a radio show, and Jensen pitched a TV show involving Michelle and other law enforcement professionals — and it becomes clear just how long and deep their friendship ran.
So, when Jensen offered to help ensure her book was finished, it made sense for Patton Oswalt to accept. He describes the night he found out there was going to be a press conference about the GSK, about texting any one he could think of to find out if it was really true, that the police had indeed caught the GSK. And then he talks about letting Oswalt sleep for a little bit longer before he texted him.
This sort of intimacy in Jensen’s prose, to the way he narrates draws you in, even though given the content you might well wonder whether you should be so invested.
Something else sticks with me in this show: Jensen uses social media to crowdsource information about suspects caught in videos or even victims. And there’s a lot in the book about how he did it, and even how mundane it can be getting the fake leads. But then there’s this message he received once: That’s my Mom.
And your heart breaks. Well mine did.
Chase the Darkness with Me was nothing like I expected. I fell down a rabbit hole of true crime investigation with Jensen and loved every minute.