Title: I’ll Be Gone in the Dark
Author: Michelle McNamara
Genre: True Crime
Pub date: February 27, 2018
Read if you like: In Cold Blood, Zodiac, True Detective.
Bookworm confession: I have never read true crime before. I’m easily freaked; as someone who struggles with anxiety, being murdered took up a lot of my mental space as a child and I did not think it was worth it to introduce real narratives of violent crimes into my mind. My imagination can run wild with that kind of material.
But this book was too special not to pick up. As you’ll hear McNamara describe in this book, she dedicated years of her life to unraveling the mystery of the Golden State Killer. She passed away in 2016, before I’ll Be Gone in the Dark was completed. It was published posthumously, completed by her lead researcher, with an afterword by her husband. Just a few months later, POLICE ARRESTED A SUSPECT FOR THE CRIMES OF THE GOLDEN STATE KILLER WITH DNA EVIDENCE. THIS IS REAL, PEOPLE. If you’re interested, here is an article about his arrest and here is an article about Patton Oswalt’s reaction to his arrest.
Ok, real life heebie-jeebies aside (I know this is more casual than most of my reviews, but that’s what true crime is doing to me as a reader), this book is impeccably written. Within the first few chapters, I could tell why this obsession had completely overwhelmed McNamara. There is so much information about the crimes – the sheer number of cases alone is overwhelming – and yet there were no true suspects. The killer had truly disappeared in the dark. McNamara brings to life the terror of his victims, the frustration of the teams chasing him, and even a little bit of the dark psychology inside of him.
As a true crime newbie, I’d recommend this to other novices and experts alike. This is a story unlike any I’ve ever read before. And it’s incredibly well written.
PS, if you’re easily frightened (as I am), I’d recommend putting it down once the sun has set, if you can. This is easier said than done – there were quite a few nights I found myself sucked into this book, not noticing the goosebumps covering my arms until it was too late and I had to turn on all the lights and run around the apartment to make them go away.
SYNOPSIS: (AS TOLD BY THE BACK OF THE BOOK)
You’ll be silent forever, and I’ll be gone in the dark.
Over the course of more than ten years, a mysterious and violent predator committed fifty sexual assaults in Northern California before moving south, where he perpetrated ten sadistic murders. In 1986 he disappeared, eluding capture by multiple police forces and some of the best detectives in the area.
Three decades later, Michelle McNamara, a true-crime journalist who created the popular website True Crime Diary, was determined to find the violent psychopath she called “the Golden State Killer.” Michelle pored over police reports, interviewed victims, and embedded herself in the online communities that were as obsessed with the case as she was.
At the time of the crimes, the Golden State Killer was between the ages of eighteen and thirty, Caucasian, and athletic – capable of vaulting tall fences. He always wore a mask. After choosing his victims – he favored suburban couples – he often entered their homes when no one was there, studying family pictures, mastering the layouts. He attacked while they slept, using a flashlight to awaken and blind them. Though they could not recognize him, his victims recalled his voice: a guttural whisper through clenched teeth, abrupt and threatening.
I’ll Be Gone in the Dark – the masterpiece McNamara was writing at the time of her sudden death – offers an atmospheric snapshot of a moment in American history and a chilling account of a criminal mastermind and the wreckage he left behind. It is also a portrait of a woman’s obsession and her unflagging pursuit of the truth. Framed by an introduction from Gillian Flynn and an afterword by McNamara’s husband, Patton Oswalt, the book was completed by Michelle’s lead researcher and a close colleague. Utterly original and compelling, it is destined to become a true-crime classic – and may at last unmask the Golden State Killer.