In the late sixties and early seventies, northern California
was stalked by a serial killer with the self proclaimed name
of Zodiac. Responsible for the sadistic killing at least three
women and four men, probably more, Zodiac was never caught.
Through his taunting letters to the police and newspapers,
Zodiac became infamous and the personal obsession of Robert
written by Robert Graysmith, is a book which examines the
events of a series of killings. The book has been released
to tie in with the 2007 film, Zodiac, directed by David
Fincher and staring Jake Gyllenhaal as Graysmith.
There is something of a fascination with killers and freaks.
You only have to look at Hollywood, and the numbers of films
which portray criminals as either glamorous or unrealistic
bogeymen, to see our collective obsession with these misfits.
So, it is little wonder that Graysmith became obsessed in
discovering the identity of the Zodiac killer.
The book charts the initial killings and Graysmith's own investigation,
an investigation in which he concludes that he knows the identity
of the killer. The final reveal of the book is possibly the
most disturbing; after all, if you knew the identity of a
serial killer, would you just walk away. This is what Graysmith
appears to have done. Even with what he feels is incontrovertible
proof, he still feels the need to disguise the killer's name.
It would have been nice to have had some idea of the moral
dilemma which this caused him. Was it fear which stopped him
printing the name? Possibly, but then that does not account
for the many Internet sites which print both the names and
pictures of the main suspects. And, if he was right, who is
to say that Zodiac stopped killing? And that's freaky and
scary in equal amounts.
As far as is possible the book is just about as factual as
you could wish for. The descriptions of the killings are straight
forward, whilst avoiding the more visceral additions which
you would normally expect if this was an exploitative book.
More than that, the book makes for compulsive reading. The
Zodiac killings were twisted enough that Graysmith need do
little more than factually report what happened to make the
reader feel uneasy. If this were a horror novel it would be
unsettling, but the fact that this really happened makes it
If the book has a problem it is with its illustrations. The
letters and illustrations, which where sent by Zodiac, are
reproduced faithfully, if a little poorly, but what is really
missing is pictures. The story of Zodiac engulfed many people's
lives, which means that there is a large number to keep track
of, at times the book reads like a list of names and places
and can quickly become confusing. Without, something like
a photograph to show that these were real people, the reader
finds themselves viewing those involved as impersonal and
the end, the book is as much about Graysmith's obsession as
it is about Zodiac. Having read the book I'm still not sure
whether Graysmith's hunt for Zodiac was extremely heroic or
foolish, but it defiantly makes for a good read.