I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer – Michelle McNamara

Genre: NonFiction, True Crime

Publisher: Harper

A masterful true crime account of the Golden State Killer—the elusive serial rapist turned murderer who terrorized California for over a decade—from Michelle McNamara, the gifted journalist who died tragically while investigating the case.

“You’ll be silent forever, and I’ll be gone in the dark.”

For 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. Then 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 TrueCrimeDiary.com, 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 a victim—he favored suburban couples—he often entered their home when no one was there, studying family pictures, mastering the layout. 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 by Gillian Flynn and an afterword by her 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.

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark is a masterfully written and comprehensive exploration of the Golden State Killer. Michelle McNamara’s understanding of the crimes and key players within the investigation is organized in an easily digestible format and concise in its explanations.

I’ve become something of a true crime buff in the past few years by listening to countless podcasts. I was first made aware of this case by Casefile (if you haven’t had the pleasure of listening to that podcast you’re doing yourself a huge disservice) and have been keeping up with the case ever since. As soon as a suspect was identified and McNamara’s book blew up I know I had to read it and I’m glad I did. McNamara’s writing is flawless in its ability in creating a narrative to explain the gruesome crimes while also giving the victims the dignity and humanity they deserve. True crime is such a grisly topic that deserves to be handled delicately yet doggedly and I’ll Be Gone in the Dark proves that McNamara was one of those select few who were up the challenge.

It saddens me to think that McNamara passed without learning of the suspect now in custody, though throughout the novel she made it clear that the glory associated with solving the case was not what she was seeking. Justice, not glory was McNamara’s goal. For this reason, I’ll Be Gone in the Dark reads like an incomplete novel. The first part focuses on the cases and victims themselves, the second part focuses on speculation as to the perpetrator, and the final part is further speculation written by her colleagues formulated from McNamara’s notes. Given what the public now knows about the suspect in custody, McNamara’s contribution to the case by keeping it relevant and offering a new perspective is especially relevant.

What makes I’ll Be Gone in the Dark stand out from other true crime novels is that it’s part memoir. McNamara spends time detailing her personal life and relationships to the give the reader a better understanding of her motivations in regards to the case. This level of intimate detail is something I truly enjoy while reading true crime. It gives a certain credibility and humanity to the author by giving the reader someone to relate and connect to.

Overall, I’ll Be Gone in the Dark is an incredibly well written novel that I’d recommend to anyone looking for more information about the Golden State Killer. I’ll be looking forward to the second edition of this novel once the case is wrapped up for further insight.

3 thoughts on “I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer – Michelle McNamara

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