Book review: Zodiac and Zodiac Unmasked

Two book reviews for the price of one. Read before a re-watch of David Fincher’s Zodiac because these were instrumental in its creation. My advice? Stick with the film. There’s a little repetition in the reviews because REPETITION IS WHAT YOU GET FROM READING THESE BOOKS, BUCKO.

ZodiacZodiac by Robert Graysmith

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Cartoonist-cum-chronicle Robert Graysmith has a pretty decent retelling of the Zodiac killer story here. As well he should, given he was working at one of the newspapers to receive ciphers and cheery letters from the murderous astrology fan.

The book’s appearance isn’t great. Cheaply printed, it’s definitely produced to tie in with the (excellent) Fincher movie which extensively used this book (and its sequel) as a frame. The text is terrible and graphic repro is pretty poor, but there’s a wealth of information in there, gleaned from the source and, on occasion, some gumshoe work of Graysmith’s own. Whatever you want to know about the Zodiac’s reign of terror, it’s probably in here. (Because let’s face it, it’s not in the SFPD files any more.)

The problem with the book is that it hasn’t been updated since it was published, save for a tacked-on chapter on the making of the film. This means the information about Arthur Leigh Allen’s supposed guilt is hidden behind altered names, and generally pussyfooted around.

I understand it’s probably easier to have this book in print AND its sequel – but given the amount of repetition in both books, it’d be nice if Graysmith revisited both and combined them into a more comprehensive single book.

Zodiac Unmasked: The Identity of America's Most Elusive Serial Killer Revealed

Zodiac Unmasked: The Identity of America’s Most Elusive Serial Killer Revealed by Robert Graysmith

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Another book to tie in with Fincher’s film. Fair enough, it is where a lot of the structure for the movie comes from – but it’s an unsatisfying read.

Compared to his first Zodiac book, this work is pretty weak. There’s a retelling – of sorts – of the Zodiac story, but with significant theories from the first work redacted. (The supposed use of the overhead projector to write the letters is nowhere to be seen in this work, for example.)

The story is told in an arse-backwards manner, which leads to chronological confusion – and this is from someone who’s read the first work. The new stuff – now with Arthur Leigh Allen named – is compelling, but it seems like so much of a tack-on. Surely the best thing to do would be to revisit the original work, supplement what’s there with the newer findings and then present a ball-tearer single volume?

It’d certainly frustrate fewer readers.

My Goodreads profile is here


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