Elizabeth K.'s Reviews > Zodiac

Zodiac by Robert Graysmith
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Oct 24, 2009

it was ok
bookshelves: 2007-new-reads
Read in September, 2007

Well this was a trip and a half. I don't read very much true crime, but I had to run out and pick this up because we rented the recent Zodiac movie, and there was a part about one of the suspects that seemed not fleshed out enough in the film and it was burning a hole in my brain and I assumed that the book would have more detail (no joy on that call, it didn't have much more information). A quick aside about the movie -- it wasn't especially great overall, but there were these small elements that I loved. It had repeated shot compositions that emphasized horizontal lines that were so impressive, just so visually striking, and one scene that was suspenseful that it ended up making pretty much the rest of the film seem bland.

ANYWAY, back to the book. I suppose I should mention, for those who can't keep the 1970s serial killers with catchy nicknames straight, that the case is still unsolved and the book outlines the crimes, the investigation, and the main suspects. Talk about a being a product of its time -- boy, the decade of the 1970s was a character on its own. A recurring theme in the investigation was the likelihood that the killer was into witchcraft, and quite possibly into the LSD. You know what happens when people get into witchcraft, and the LSD! I have a sneaking suspicion that the author himself entertains the possibility that the symbols and twitchy references in the Zodiac's correspondence with the press carry some meaning and intent external to the person doing the killing. I mean, I get that a demented person, or a person who decides to kill a bunch of people, or heck, even a person into the witchcraft and the LSD, might find meaning in various symbols, and in his head might believe the symbols communicate things such as "hey, go stab some people tonight" but it's not as if the symbol itself is going to cause anyone to become a mass murderer, or that someone else could see the symbol and glean any information about the killer from it. The other funny thing is how dated the ... profiling? is. Anyone who has seen The Silence of the Lambs could come to the same conclusions that the experts did. I understand how this works -- we only have The Silence of the Lambs because of what criminologists learned in the past, but still, it's a little hard in 2007 to take it too seriously when an expert pronounces "the killer may have issues with his mother."

Grade: C+
Recommended: I don't think this is especially good as far as true crime goes (from my limited experience with the genre), in fact I was distracted by the possibility that the author had gone around the bend, which seemed almost more unsettling than the murderer (the murderer is clearly around the bend, so that part was just obvious). I had a hard time sussing out why Graysmith felt some suspects were more likely than others. However, it was an interesting look at the effect of the crimes, and the weirdness of the letter-writing campaign, on the San Francisco region and the people who were charged with investigating the case.
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