“Book Review: The Zodiac Revisited (V. 1)”
Reviewed by Joseph Haeger
A fascinating in-depth look at the details from the Zodiac murders
Michael F. Cole states in the beginning of The Zodiac Revisited, Volume 1: The Facts of the Case that he wants to help catch the Zodiac killer.
After fifty years and heaps of evidence that we’ve collected, it seems like a tall order to catch this killer, but who knows? Maybe with a fact-filled book like this, Cole could contribute to a capture. Or else, one of the most enigmatic serial killers of all time will continue to roam free.
The Zodiac killer was active in the late sixties, bleeding into the early seventies. He was verified to have killed a handful of people, but his continued correspondence with different San Francisco-based newspapers was almost more unsettling. He sent handwritten notes, ciphers, and postcards to these publications as a way to toy with police and the public, but another part of me—which is supported by Cole’s own assessment—believes the Zodiac was doing this for the attention.
Throughout his letter writing, he continued to add bodies to his murder count, giving himself upwards of 37, even though the SFPD could never verify a number that high. At one point, he did say he was going to start doing his killings in secret, making them look like muggings gone wrong or accidents. The Zodiac is a compelling killer because we have a lot of evidence and yet, he still feels like an enigma.
The Zodiac Revisited lays out the timeline in a straightforward and digestible format, so anyone can really understand the way things unfolded in the case. A different writer might have gotten distracted and broken into tangents, over-explaining certain parts, and making the timeline confusing, but Cole stays focused on the topic of each section.
He takes his time to go back to different theories and unsolved murders that could potentially be credited to the Zodiac, giving us the details we want. The way Cole reinforces this simple approach is by giving each section a single focal point and keeping his sights on it. He doesn’t need to embellish or expand on a lot because the case itself is so intriguing—I even found myself reading late into the night, afraid to go to sleep because of the natural sounds my house was making.
My only real complaint is how abruptly it ends. Each chapter centers around a specific spot in the case, and after the last event, it simply ends. In the same way the introduction contextualizes the book we’re about to read—and lets Cole’s authentic voice come through—an afterward could have done a great job of wrapping up the details to prepare us for book two. Are people still working on the case, or is this something that the public has essentially taken on? What’s the general consensus on everything we just read?
There are two additional volumes from Cole about the Zodiac killer: Volume 2: Analysis and Fact-Based Speculation and Volume 3: Tying It All Together. These books, I imagine, answer the questions I posed, but I still would’ve liked to see some sort of resolution at the end of volume 1 to tee us up for the next entries.
Michael F. Cole provides us with a level-headed, straightforward, and engaging account of the Zodiac killer case. If he were to have sensationalized any moment in this book, it would have fallen flat and felt inauthentic. Since he provided us with a facts-first account, it comes across as a trustworthy retelling of a fascinating case. Cole put a lot of care and detail into these pages, and it shows. His ear for the details surrounding the case is pitch perfect.Tune in if you’re ready for the case of a lifetime.
Genre: Nonfiction / True Crime / Serial Killers
Print Length: 214 pages
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