If you read the news, you have probably heard of Michelle McNamara’s I’ll Be Gone in the Dark. It is a true crime novel about the man known who started out as the East Area Rapist and became the serial killer McNamara dubbed the Golden State Killer. I am fascinated by true crime and serial killers, so I knew I needed to read this.
(All reviews are spoiler-free unless otherwise noted.)
(From Goodreads) 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.
It was so interesting reading this book knowing that, since it was published, they have caught the GSK. While it’s a bit sad that McNamara didn’t live to see that, it’s definitely gratifying to know that years of her work lead there. I’m very curious to find out more about the killer and why he did what he did. I want more of the psychological element, but, of course, that isn’t the fault of this book since it was written before he was caught – it couldn’t be more than speculation. It was also interesting listening to the audiobook as I drove around Orange County, which is where a lot of the murders took place. I was in very close proximity to where many of the victims worked and lived, and the experience was a little bit surreal. I think it definitely heightened the impact this book had on me.
I was very impressed by the writing in this book. I find that true crime books can be a bit confusing sometimes because the author jumps around, trying to create suspense. But McNamara managed to organize this in a way that felt really natural and always made me want to keep reading. She wrote this story in a way that was engaging and easy to keep up with. This is definitely a book you’ll want to binge, and she made that completely doable.
The one thing that truly struck me about this book was how much research went into it. McNamara resurrected a cold case through sheer tenacity and helped catch a serial killer. She was truly dedicated to this, and I was blown away by how much work went into it. I’m so glad it ended up being completed and published. I really liked how the few sections not written by McNamara directly were clearly identified, as well. I went into it knowing she hadn’t been able to complete the book, and appreciated knowing how much of it could be attributed to her.
★★★★☆ – I’ll Be Gone in the Dark is more like a 4.5 star book, but I don’t have a half-star symbol. I really enjoyed it. If you like true crime, this is a must-read!
I’ll Be Gone in the Dark is available in bookstores now! (And, as of my writing this, the hardcover is only $15 on Amazon.)
To get the audiobook for free, use this link to sign up for a free trial of Audible and choose I’ll Be Gone in the Dark as one of your two free books. I really enjoyed the audiobook version of this one! It got me to look forward to my commute, which is definitely a feat.
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