Graysmith wrote what is considered the definitive book on the Zodiac back in the 80’s. It was so well researched and well done that when someone in a police department retired and another officer inherited the Zodiac case, that book was required reading. This is not that book. Due to libel, Graysmith wasn’t able to publish the circumstantial evidence that made Arthur Leigh Allen the best bet for the Zodiac. So once Allen kicked it (yeah, I know I shouldn’t be so flippant, but Allen was at the very least, a convicted sex offender, and liked to catch small animals and dissect them, so being flippant is almost a pleasantry at this point), Graysmith, armed with “new” information, wrote this book.
The book doesn’t begin in a linear fashion. Rather, Graysmith starts at when Allen first entered into the Zodiac investigation. So unless you are already a Zodiac hobbyist, the narrative hops all over the place and it’s hard to figure out just exactly when in time you are and why it’s important. Unfortunately, if you already are a Zodiac enthusiast, a lot of the book is going to be fluff. Graysmith tried to get around libel issues in the first book by calling Allen by a different name, so from other reviews I’ve read, a lot of the first half is retreading old ground.
Not only is the time frame a mess, even in entries for the same day, Graysmith jumps around from topic to topic, expecting the reader to keep juggling all these random seeming bits and bobs until he puts it together (rather haphazardly, I might add) in the book’s conclusion. Example: he mentions a seemingly unrelated car accident and then at least a hundred pages later states that the driver that died in the accident was another Zodiac suspect because he had hand drawn bondage porn in his car that looked like some victims that might be related to a series of murders no one but Graysmith thinks are also Zodiac’s doing. (I’m not trying to shit all over the idea; I think it’s entirely possibly Zodiac has other victims that the police didn’t find because he was pretty cunning for a mass murderer. Or maybe he didn’t, he also liked to brag. Who knows. But Graysmith presents some scant evidence to his claims and only uses confirmation bias to come up with even that.) It sounds confusing because it is.
Graysmith also has his brand new, earth shattering information. The family of one of the victim’s was reinterviewed by Graysmith. There’s no mention if this was before or after Graysmith had made up his mind that Allen was Zodiac, which makes me question exactly how those interviews went and if there were any leading questions. The family believes that their relative was not just a random killing by the Zodiac, but that he targeted her because she was blackmailing him/rebuked him/lead him on, etc. No one really seems to have a straight answer as to the why. But Graysmith makes them all sound very confident that Allen was in their relative’s life and had it out for her. I’m not saying that they are wrong and again, Allen was more than likely the Zodiac, but since their words are metaphorically coming out of Graysmith’s mouth, I’m skeptical. Graysmith does have an agenda, not only is he confident that Allen is the Zodiac, but he’s also been on this case since the 70’s, so he kind of needs some resolution.
On the reread, I realize I sound way harsh on Graysmith. He is a great descriptive writer and does tell an effective story, once he’s finished throwing random factoids and evidence at you. He did a fantastic job at describing how gross Allen was. But he didn’t trust his reader to naturally follow him and instead went the route of beating you over the head repeatedly while yelling, “It was Allen! See? It was totally Allen!” Oh, and he kind of (totally did) offer up one of his own friends as bait on Allen while Allen was still alive and that’s taking your journalism a step too far.