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BOOK
Zodiac
The Shocking True Story of America's Most Elusive Serial Killer

Author: Robert Graysmith
Titan Books
RRP: 6.99
ISBN-13: 978 1 84576 531 6
ISBN-10: 1 84576 531 1
Available 23 March 2007


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 Graysmith...

Zodiac, 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 downright disturbing.

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 remote.

In 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.

Charles Packer

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