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

Journalist Billy Jensen, the author of Chase Darkness With Me: How One True Crime Writer Started Solving Murders (Sourcebooks, 2019), his first book, is a busy guy. Not only has he written a unique “how to” book, but in it, he proves his skill in catching killers by telling the stories of several murders he has solved or helped solve. He and his co-host, cold case investigator Paul Holes, also produce a weekly podcast about true crime, “The Murder Squad.” Finally, when he wasn’t writing his own book, investigating murders, and producing his podcast, he was helping Holes and Michelle McNamara’s husband Patten Oswalt and her research assistant Paul Haynes finish writing McNamara’s unfinished book, I’ll Be Gone in the Dark, after her untimely death.

Billy Jensen’s prose is crisp and factually accurate, expected characteristics of a journalist’s writing. What makes his book especially tantalizing is the way he weaves together autobiographical information, stories about true crimes both solved and unsolved, and instructions about how “citizen sleuths” can actually assist police in solving crimes without disrupting the latters’ own investigations.

Finally, he is a passionate advocate for citizen involvement in the criminal justice process. He points out, quite properly but a surprising realization for me, that we have been involving ordinary citizens in solving crimes for generations– as members of juries. Jensen does more than propose such involvement, he shows how social media can be used to generate suspect and victim leads, and he shows that the techniques work. To date he has solved or helped to solve 10 cold cases using his methods.

Why Write About Murder?

Charlie Wells, Sheriff of Manatee County, retired

“We are all sharing stories about what it means to be human. …The true cost of crime and violence cannot be fully understood without knowing about the lives it touches. My answer to how to honor the victims is to tell a responsible story.”