Cover Image: Chase Darkness with Me

Chase Darkness with Me

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Member Reviews

I really enjoyed reading about Journalist Billy Jensen and how he built his career solving cold cases. This book takes you along as he delves into the world of true crime. A Great read.
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Thank you to both the publisher and Netgalley for the ARC of this incredible book.

I absolutely loved this title.  I am aware of Billy Jensen from the Murder Squad podcast and found this book to be enlightening and, honestly, inspiring.  Billy is open and honest about the challenges he faced whilst undertaking this work, the last truly kind thing you can do for someone.  I recommend it wholeheartedly!
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I love listening to Billy Jensen and Paul Holes' podcast, Murder Squad and had learned about his work via I'll Be Gone in the Dark and the My Favorite Murder podcast. I went into this book with high expectations and it didn't disappoint! 

First off, I love that Karen Kilgariff writes the forward. It's funny and the perfect start to this book. Second, while I knew from his podcast that he had been using crowdsourcing to solve crimes, I didn't realize how many cases he had been involved in using this technique or how he started out. He's doing super important work to address the huge number of cold cases in the United States.

I really hope Billy Jensen writes another book featuring more cases solved with crowdsourcing, especially some featured on the Murder Squad podcast!
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Chase Darkness with Me was an intriguing and gripping real life narrative by Billy Jensen. Up until this point I did not know who he was and I was surprised to find out just how much he has been involved in. Most famously is his involvement in the completion of Michelle McNamara's book "I'll be Gone in the Dark" with her husband after her tragic passing. But Billy Jensen has been involved in solving crimes for a long time. I enjoyed his style, the way he grabs the reader and takes you through his life starting with his relationship with his dad. Then moving on step by step to the man who is renowned for helping police solve cases. The most intriguing piece is how he has accomplished this task; his use of social media and crowdsourcing. The process of targeting specific areas, including streets to reach the most relevant individuals who may have information on the particular crime, is mind-blowing to me and so innovative. He also finds ways to utilize the DNA banks and familial DNA out there to help solve crimes. The only part of the book that I had a difficult time digesting was the "How to become an armchair detective" at the end of the book. Yes rules and such were outlined but the idea of average Joe Schmoes doing the complex work that Mr. Jensen has taken years to perfect and utilize is a huge risk but to each their own.
This is a must read for any true crime enthusiast and I'm very thankful I was given the opportunity to read and review. 
Thank you to the Publisher & Netgalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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I first learned of journalist Billy Jensen through the podcast My Favorite Murder and from reading Michelle McNamara's I'll Be Gone in the Dark, which Jensen helped finish writing following McNamara's unexpected death. But until I read Chase Darkness with Me, I had no idea the extent to which Jensen has investigated and even solved murders. Using his particular set of skills for crowd sourcing information through social media, Jensen is leading the charge of citizen detectives on the trail of cold cases.

Part memoir and part how-to guide, Chase Darkness with Me traces Jensen's close relationship with his father, who helped instill a fascination for true crime in him. The book also reveals Jensen's frustration as a rookie stringer reporter covering crime. Jensen recognized that law enforcement had limited resources and manpower to solve cold cases, so he decided he'd start investigating those cases himself.

Notable cases that Jensen worked on are The Bear Brook Murders (also known as The Allenstown Four and The Family in Barrels); the murder of Henryk Siwiak, the only recorded homicide in New York City on September 11, 2001, unrelated to the terrorist attacks; and of course, the Golden State Killer case, which was solved through familial DNA after McNamara's death.

It's always a fine balance relating the facts of the case while still maintaining respect for the victims and their families. Jensen treads carefully, ensuring that the victims are the focus of every investigation, every story. Through his revolutionary methods of using social media to assist law enforcement, Jensen has opened a world of possibilities and hope for the countless cold cases still waiting to be solved.

Many thanks to the publisher for my free advance copy of this book.
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An interesting and at times heart breaking account of how citizen sleuths can help law enforcement solve crimes. Jensen does a wonderful job inserting his own life experiences in between cases and how his life experiences put him on the true crime track.
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I really love Billy Jensen's work, particularly on The Murder Squad podcast with Paul Holes. This memoir was solidly written, and I loved reading about Jensen's childhood and early start in investigative journalism. His passion for his work was very inspiring, and I look forward to following Jensen's work in the future.
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Billy Jensen grew up on Long Island, the only son in a family of girls.  His hero was his father who ran a painting company.  He and his father were inseparable, and what his father loved was true crime.  He liked to read crime stories in the paper and talk about them with anyone around.  Billy grew up to be a news reporter, partly due to this early exposure to his father's fascination.

Billy started as a stringer for papers, just happy to get any jobs.  But he soon turned to focusing on crimes and had an early success when a body was found under a house.  He tracked down the former owner and it turned out that man was the murderer; the body his former mistress.  After that, Billy was hooked.  But as newspaper after newspaper went under, he needed another medium to focus his work on.  That medium is the Internet.

Jensen is in the forefront of using the Internet to crowdsource information to solve murders.  He explains how he uses Facebook, for example, to get information, pictures and clues focused specifically on the audience that may have answers.  An early success was the murder of a man in the street by another man in a hoodie that concealed his features.  But Billy was able to uncover valuable information by posting a video of the crime, narrowing down on the man's hairline and distinctive gait.  He gave the information he received to the police and the man was eventually arrested.

The book focuses on several cases that Jensen was involved with.  One was a crime where four barrels were discovered in a forest, a woman and three little girls within.  Despite the best efforts of all, these women are not identified nor their killer found even as years go by.  Another was a case where a woman with a dragon tattoo on her shoulder is a suspect.  The most chilling case is that of a serial killer who Jensen helped identify.  This man's pattern was that he would target a woman with young children, kill the woman then use the child in his search for another woman, his story how lost he was to raise a child alone.  After securing the next woman and child, he would kill the child he had and start the pattern again. 

Fans of true crime will find this an invaluable book.  It talks about the DNA controversy of using familial matches to identify killers.  It gives practical advise to those interested in working on cases from their homes and how to work with the police.  It details Jansen's friendship with Michelle McNamara whose work was pivotal in catching the Golden State Killer who is yet to go on trial.  Readers will enjoy Jensen's retelling of crimes and the men and women who commit them.  This book is recommended for true crime readers.
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*Thank you to Billy Jensen, Sourcebooks, and NetGalley for this ARC!

Billy Jensen is my hero! I have been a fan of True Crime for a while, but first heard Jensen's name when Michelle McNamara's book I'll Be Gone in the Dark came out. I knew then that I wanted to know more about Jensen's background and how he got into True Crime and investigative journalism. This book provides those details and so much more! In a style that makes you feel like you're sitting in a coffee shop, chatting about life Jensen reveals how he got into investigating unsolved murders, some of his biggest and most challenging cases, and how you too can help find answers for victims families.
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Fast-past and engaging, Jensen offers a how-to approach to citizen sleuthing.  He explains (often in great detail) how he sets up targeted ads on social media to attract eyeballs to cold cases like unsolved murders or missing person investigations.  It's interesting to see the way social media and new technology has impacted our ability to glean information about strangers and their social behaviors,  but it's not necessarily book-length interesting.  

As I kept reading, I was personally turned off by the thought of paying Mark Zuckerberg thousands upon thousands of dollars to use all the data he's hoovered from my generation in order to assist police detectives who still don't really know how to use this technology themselves.  Do the ends justify the means here?  Jensen says he has a 15% success rate.  

My three star rating is almost entirely for the book's meta-narrative about Michelle MacNamara's work to find the Golden State Killer, and the story of how Joseph James DeAngelo was finally brought into custody during the book tour for I'll Be Gone in the Dark.  Jensen helped to complete her book after MacNamara's untimely death.  It's a truly fascinating story.
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Journalist Billy Jensen has built his career on solving cold case murders, often using information found on social media and in other places the police don’t think to look. When detectives have no answers, they call Billy, the world’s first digital “consulting detective.”

Step inside the world of true crime as Billy solves the Halloween Mask Murder, finds a murder/fugitive hiding out in Mexico, and investigates the only other murder in New York City on 9/11.

Readers will also follow Billy closely as he helps finish Michelle McNamara’s #1 New York Times bestseller I’ll Be Gone In the Dark, after her sudden death.

Full of twists, turns, and rabbit holes, Chase Darkness with Me allows readers to ride shotgun with Billy as he uses groundbreaking techniques to identify the criminals behind seemingly unsolvable murders.
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Billy Jensen tackles true crime in a unique way by helping to create the 'citizen detective' and using social media to help solve crimes. He first came to attention helping to finish Michelle McNamara's book about the 'golden state killer' and has continued entertaining with his podcast and more. An engrossing read from finish to end. Highly recommended.
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Chase Darkness with Me by Billy Jensen is a 2019 Sourcebooks publication.

Gripping and personal journey into true crime reporting and crime solving-

The sheer number of cases that remain unsolved are mind numbing. We often focus on the crimes that make the big headlines, but for every one of those, there are numerous others that never make a blip on the public’s consciousness. Some cases go viral, such as the one where an innocent man is knocked unconscious, then hit by a car, then robbed while he lay in the street. Although the crime was recorded, finding the man who assaulted the victim took a long time, with many dead-end leads, and required much tenacity, patience, and a very sharp eye.

For Billy Jensen helping to solve the lesser known cold cases has become his life’s work. He is still a writer and journalist, but what he writes about is unsolved crimes. He became friends with fellow cold case/true crime advocate, Michelle McNamara, and he helped to complete her book after her untimely death.

In this book, Jensen explains how he became a crime reporter, his personal background, and even exposes his single-minded fixation on solving crimes, helping law enforcement, and bringing some closure to the victim's families, who at this point, just want to know the truth.

His heady exhilaration at having helped law enforcement close the books on a case is what keeps him from losing faith when so many cases hit a brick wall.

One thing that we can all agree on is that despite all the perils of social media, without it, and the advances in DNA and forensics, murderers and rapists like the Golden State Killer, might never have been caught. Jensen outlines the way he uses social media and the internet, in general, to help solve crimes.

It’s a fascinating story, and you have to hand it to the guy. He’s like a dog with a bone when he gets started on a story or case and he doesn’t turn loose of it, even when it looks as if he’s just chasing his own tale. This dedication might also be described as an obsession, though.

One issue I had with the book, and it is the same issue I had with McNamara’, is the layout and organization of the book. The flow is uneven, as Jensen seems unsure of when to insert something poignant or personal, which came off as feeling a little too forced and awkward. The timing is a bit off in that area, but I did enjoy some of the nostalgia from the seventies he spoke of. Adding personal antidotes was something that worked for McNamara, but not so much here, I think.

The other issue I have with the book is with the last portion, which is a DIY tutorial on amateur sleuthing and crime solving.

Because it goes without saying that law enforcement agencies nationwide are overwhelmed, it may have gotten to the point where it now takes a village to help solve crimes. It never hurts to be informed, prepared, aware, and alert. I do not have a problem with people logging onto to social media to study crime, cold cases, or missing persons profiles. Sometimes a citizen’s hyper-awareness could help save a life.

In many ways, I greatly admire Jensen and what he does. Without him, some crimes, and murders would mostly likely have remained unsolved.

That said-

While I read a great deal of true crime, and do follow certain specific cases, I keep my concerns and interest in the proper perspective.

Too many people interfering in official police investigations could backfire spectacularly. While Jensen found the internet and social media to be a huge asset, we all know by now that it is also packed with erroneous and harmful information, which could hinder, instead of help, solve a crime. It could also be very dangerous, opening oneself up to scams or cons or even physical harm. It could lead to false accusations as well, and we know that even a hint of such a thing can ruin a life in an instant.

So, I’m thinking this is a bit of a slippery slope and I’m not entirely comfortable with Jensen encouraging the general public to follow his chosen path. Putting oneself out there, interviewing victim’s families and the heart wrenching, day to day, drudge of following a lead that turned out to be nothing, is an emotional drain that can be mentally draining, and quite damaging… just take a look at the toll it took on Michelle McNamara.

I’m not saying Jensen glorified his work or sugarcoated anything, as the cases he examines are truly horrifying and one gets a glimpse at the cost the author pays, and the sacrifices his family must endure for him to be successful at what he does.

In my humble opinion, climbing into that dark, murky world, and becoming- shall we say- devoted- to the exclusion of all else in life can’t be all that healthy.

Still, I did find this book to be very interesting, and absorbing, overall, sans the DYI bits. Although I don’t necessarily recommend we all jump into the boat along with him, I’m glad Jensen has had success as a reporter, author, and amateur sleuth and hope that as he continues his work, he will at long last solve some of the cases that continue to haunt him.

3.5 stars
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I always struggle to rate true crime, with the subject being so horrific. But Billy Jensen did an amazing job of handling the subject matter while keeping me fully engrossed.
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I dole out 2.5 stars as I wander into the wrong town.

It’s a case of me wandering into the wrong town; now THAT’S the true crime. But really, what is this fiction broad doing in true crime? The author helps solve tough cases by using social media. Interesting idea—but a whole book about how he came to do this?  And then a how-to for others? I don’t think so. I went from bored to furious.

I knew it, I knew it, I knew it!! I should have stayed in my own lane, continued reading exciting, made-up stories. I guess I was expecting something different. I had read a couple of positive reviews from friends, and I thought, hm, the psychology of the criminal fascinates me, so I’ll check it out. Like the rest of the world, I shiver when I think of The Boston Strangler, Son of Sam, Charlie Manson, and I read a lot about them—ha, especially when my mom clipped every Boston Strangler article ever written and sent them to me when I moved to Boston at age 18! (Please explain to me why she would do that—by reading them, I would ward off murder?)

The book is a memoir (or a report) by a man who has made it his life work to solve murders and, to a lesser extent, find missing people. What’s unique about him is that he has figured out how to get tips through social media. He was involved in other new ideas about how the Internet can help solve crimes, like using familial DNA to track criminals. He has solved a couple of murders, no small feat.

Joy Jar

-Jensen is a good guy who is passionate about catching the bad guys. Persistence is his middle name. That he cares so much and works so hard at it earns him many gold stars.
-He kept gore out of it. This was much appreciated. He didn’t get off on shocking us with all the gross details of crimes. There were a few mentions of the bizarre things a sicko had done, like burying a body in cat litter, but he didn’t dwell on them. 
-The teensy blob of story about the author’s father’s edgy past, and the father-son relationship, was the best part of the book. 
-The few statistics were interesting. For example, I can’t fathom that there are 5,000 unsolved crimes a year in America!!
-It was interesting to hear about how you can target areas, genders, age groups, etc., when you’re trying to reach strangers on Facebook.

Complaint Board

That’s not what I THOUGHT I was gonna hear…. When am I going to figure out how to ditch those expectations? I thought I would hear the author’s take on the twisted minds of the sickos who commit heinous murders. I wanted psychology! And I guess I expected the author to zero in on one or two crimes. Nope, that wasn’t what the book was about.

Don’t tell me about crimes that still aren’t solved. The author gave many (too many) details about what he did to try to solve particular crimes, only to conclude by saying he never solved most of them. That got obnoxious, frustrating, and disappointing real fast-like. I realized early on that I’m only interested in hearing a detailed report of all the steps you went through to solve a crime, IF, in fact, you DID solve the crime. Why do I want to know about what didn’t work?? I think it’s natural to want closure—that’s true in fiction, of course, but also when you’re talking about true crime. “Yeah, we did this and this and we even did this, but no, we didn’t solve the crime. Sorry to say the bandito is still out there. We’re back at square 1.” It’s like telling me you lost your keys, then described in excruciating detail all the nooks and crannies where you searched for them, only to end with “I never did find the damn keys.” I wanted you, needed you, to find the keys; the story of the search isn’t interesting unless there is success at the end. I know cold cases fascinate people, and they sort of fascinated me, too—until I read this book! 
 
Oh, I was so bored. I mean really bored—for the first 90 percent of the book, in fact. I dreaded picking the book up. The author presented a jumbled report about a few crimes that he tried to solve, going on and on, spewing out details of his methods and perseverance. It was pretty show-offy. I’m sorry, yawn city. I didn’t need to know about what day he met with other crimefighters, and details of the conversations they had. I wanted lively, I got droning. Many journalists are good storytellers; this author is not. He jumped around, going back and forth between crimes, and his language was dull and repetitive. Because of the sort of staccato, scattered monotone, I didn’t end up truly feeling enough for the victims. The purpose of the book, I realize, wasn’t to talk much about the victims, but instead, to outline how the author went about trying to solve crimes. He name-dropped crimes (and solvers) that I was unfamiliar with, and this was annoying. I’m sure people who follow true crimes and crime-fighters loved it.

The last 10 percent made me see red. So I was bored for 90 percent, but the last 10 percent made me furious. It was a how-to for jo-schmos who want to solve crimes themselves. Before you attack, let me just say that I KNOW that there’s a whole group of people who want to be amateur sleuths (they’re all part of a club, and they are avid listeners to the author’s podcasts and his crime-solving efforts). I think it’s cool that the public can occasionally help solve a crime. I know some people found the last section fascinating and useful. I, on the other hand, felt like I been plopped down into at a UFO convention and I didn’t fit in--and I wasn’t going to report any sightings because I wasn’t “onboard.” Here’s the deal: The author uses social media to track down the bad guys. He is a smart, passionate, responsible man who wants everyone to share his hobby of catching the bad guys. But not everyone is like him. The last 10 percent of the book is a detailed DIY instruction manual.

Okay, deep breath. I don’t think untrained citizens should try to be detectives, period. First, it’s dangerous! There are trained, experienced, paid detectives who do this job. One of the things you’re supposed to do is buy space on Facebook or other social media, targeting certain demographics, so you can circulate pictures of the criminal you’re trying to catch. Then you wait for tips to come in. The author gives you a couple of no-no’s so you’ll be safe from crazy criminals trying to find you, but I think it’s irresponsible of the author to lead people down this road. Some people aren’t going to remember or want to adhere to the “what not to do’s,” and they may end up being stalked or even dead. The author tells one story about an amateur sleuth with a day job as a doctor who got herself killed by a gang in Mexico she was investigating. And sometimes these zealous hobbyists ruin the lives of innocent people: once they post a photo of a suspect, the suspect’s reputation is toast even if they didn’t do the crime. In these Internet days, when stories and pictures are eternal, it’s hugely bad to point a finger at an innocent person.
 
Second, you better be a rich person with no job if you want to be an amateur sleuth. So it’s not true that “even you can find bad guys” because you may be too poor to do so. The author explains that you have to buy space on Facebook (or other social media) so you can send out pictures of potential criminals. The more money you throw into it, the more people you can reach. Yeah, I have hundreds of dollars to throw around so I can maybe help solve a crime. And about the time required—he says it’s a 24/7 job. Really? This comment assumes that no one has a day job! Wouldn’t it be nice if we had the time and luxury to have a selfless, virtuous, and applaudable volunteer job as a crime fighter? 

One final nit about that last, maddening 10 percent: The author, in his earnest thoroughness, even tells you the location of icons you need to click on the Facebook interface. We all know what it’s like when web builders decide to redo the site, moving buttons randomly left to right and taking away features and whole menus. (I go on a cussing jag and fantasize sending letters telling “them” a thing or two.) It happens all the time. I used to edit and write online Help, and believe me, I was horrified when the interface was radically redesigned after I carefully described which button to click and where. No fun. So back to this book—the instructions the author outlined won’t apply (and will surely frustrate people) whenever a new designer decides to impress their boss and change the look of the site. The author should not have gone into that much detail; the information will become obsolete.
  
Okay, I’ll stop my rant. As I said, I know the author’s heart is in the right place, and solving crimes is laudable. People who love true crime will love this book. It just wasn’t for me.
  
Thanks to NetGalley for the advance copy.
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“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.”

When you think about a True Crime book, it’s usually about some unsolvable crime or an elusive criminal. We rarely see the amount of work and determination that goes into solving mysteries. Chase Darkness With Me by Billy Jensen is a fascinating real-life journey of Bill Jensen; from being a crime reporter to helping authorities in solving real-life cold cases. In this engrossing memoir, Jensen takes the reader on his quest to hunt down killers using social media and crowdsourcing.

The book begins from Bill’s childhood with his father reading him crime headlines from the paper (which fueled his interest in true crime) to becoming a crime journalist. Jensen details his early work as a journalist and what drove him to crime investigations. He recalls his early successes, failures and his frustration with the system, which eventually made him take to solving crimes himself.

The book recounts several cases including the Halloween Mask Murder case, the case of fugitive hiding out in Mexico, and the Bear Brook murders among others cases, where he helped find killers for police around the country using social media. Also covered in the book is Jensen’s experience of working with fellow journalist Michelle McNamara, who was investigating the Golden State Killer case.

The author has included a section at the end of the book for those who wish to work as an online citizen detective, to track killers and fugitives, with a complete list of rules, tips, and cautions. If you’ve ever wanted to become a citizen detective, you may find this very useful (though personally I find the idea a bit risky)

Chase Darkness with Me allows readers to understand the tough world of crime-solving. Jensen uses groundbreaking techniques to identify the criminals behind seemingly unsolvable murders. Using DNA databases, crowdsourcing on social media is a game-changer but the results are still hard and slow to come by. Jensen is honest about his successes and failures and the many dead ends in the path.

This book is also a reality check for a lot of armchair detectives (crime-solving is tough, frustrating and in the end don’t expect to be the hero). In a way, this story is about a man’s journey through darkness to find the light at the end of the tunnel. The success of the book lies in the fact that Jensen makes you feel part of the journey. You feel disappointed after every setback, you feel thrilled after every breakthrough and you feel happy after solved case.

I also enjoyed his childhood stories including his interactions with his father (which I found quite emotional). My only complaint about the book is that the author has covered many cases in the book and it’s hard to keep up with all of them. The book starts with a case, meets a dead-end and is finally solved a few chapters later. The chapters could have been organized a bit better.

This book would definitely interest true crime fans a lot. It has multiple causes and offers a unique perspective on the world of crime-solving.

Many thanks to the publisher Sourcebooks and NetGalley for the ARC.
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I was given an advanced reader copy of this book by the publisher. I was also lucky enough to go hear the author speak about his book.

I have to say that I really enjoyed this book. It had all the factors that I have come to love and expect from a true crime story. However, unlike those stories, it makes the reader feel like they too can help bring justice to families. 

I loved that he ended the book with ways to help...and ways that trying to help turn into hurting the situation.
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Is it a memoir? Is it a true crime book? It's a little of both. The true crime side is strongest and when the book is at its best, but occasionally a line about Mr. Jensen's family gets randomly thrown in and threw me off track (kids are mentioned and then are suddenly in college, etc.). I think I'll stick to The Murder Squad podcast. 

I received a digital ARC from the publisher via Netgalley.
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Billy Jensen's writing on his journey to true crime journalism and citizen sleuthing feels more like a conversation with an old friend than your average non-fiction story. Jensen is a victim advocate that uses new methods of social media to crowd source new information on cold cases or cases that are at a standstill using traditional methods. He discuses several of his successes and just as many frustrations and hopes for future solves. Along the way, he gives advice for other true crime enthusiasts who might be interested in graduating to being a citizen sleuths themselves, including dos and don'ts and moral obligations. I would highly recommend for anyone interested in true crime or journalism.
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I was so excited when I got approved to read this book through NetGalley. As I've said before I love true crime podcasts and him and Paul Holes are brought up a lot on My Favorite Murder. I was a little sad to miss an opportunity to see Billy at BookCon this year but I was just getting in the Nic Stone signing line (very early to get one of the limited Jackpot ARCs).
This book follows Billy investigating some of his biggest cases and how he first got into crime writing. He tells the reader about some of his successes through crowdsourcing and some of his biggest white whale cases he's still trying to solve. At the end of the book he gives readers tips on how to use his same crowdsourcing techniques to help solve crimes.
I loved getting this inside look into how he helps solve crimes. It's crazy hearing how much money he puts into Facebook pages for these cases though. Throughout the book you can see how passionate he truly is to help this families get answers. He's just as invested in all of them as the friends and family members left in the dark still looking for answers. I'd recommend this book if you love true crime or if you've ever wondered how people not in the criminal justice system can help solve the huge amount of unsolved crimes.
I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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