Bill Jensen became interested in crime (and catching bad guys) at a young age — his father used to read him newspaper articles as bedtime stories. He even tells a heart-warming tale of learning about Son of Sam with his dad. This created a life-long obsession with crime from Jensen, and eventually led to him to not only help finish Michelle McNamara’s I’ll Be Gone in the Dark, but also help solve other crimes and help find missing people.
“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. But after Michelle died, it was different. Now I hate the perpetrator for taking over the lives of the living just as much as taking the lives of the dead.”
As an adult, Jensen became a writer, starting out with clickbait articles to attract readers to his website. He quickly discovered that he could use those skills — reaching a certain audience, getting their attention, getting them to follow through on an action — to help solve crimes. He began using social media to target certain groups of people who might be able to identify a criminal from a security camera screen-grab or a physical description.
“The killers were still out there, not only escaping justice for the stories I told but free to kill again, believing they had the right to take someone else’s life.”
Jensen outlines a lot of the cases that he worked on, along with the obstacles (police officers who may or may not have appreciated his help, and may or may not have the time and resources to run down his leads), the families (the families are heart-breaking), and the results. He makes an impassioned plea for volunteers to help him, and make a stink to get DNA from cold cases entered into a national database. He goes into detail about with his relationship McNamara, and what it meant to him when he was asked to help finish her book, and eventually watched the killer brought to justice.
It’s an interesting book — I found myself frustrated alongside him as he hit roadblocks, and holding my breath when it sounded like he cracked a case.