Featured Post

Happy 6th Birthday, SPR!

As of my "maternity leave," here are the stats of the past year: 74 books reviewed 9 guest posts 4 independent bookstores 3 d...

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

I'll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman's Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer


I wish that on any rating system I could give this book a million stars -- five just doesn't seem enough. Michelle McNamara's I'll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman's Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer is one of the most outstanding books I have ever read. 

One man is responsible for over fifty rapes, ten murders, and possibly many other crimes in California during the 1970's and 80's. At the time, investigators from several counties suspected this, and with the dawn of DNA testing it was confirmed. There were peculiarities in the reports of his crimes -- the use of a low, gravely voice, waiting to trick his victims into thinking he was gone, and most puzzling, the stalking of his neighborhoods and victims. The breadth and depth of his crimes fascinated writer McNamara, to the point that she used her insomnia to begin tracking the killer using her laptop and inborn detective skills. This definitive account of the man, his crimes, and who he could possibly be is an astounding body of work that is all encompassing and beautifully obsessive.

I am honestly just floored by what I read in this book. The first thing I have to say is what a damned shame it is that Michelle passed away at all, but that it also happened before she could finish this book or at least find out the identity of the man who took over her life for so many years. She says in the book that it doesn't matter to her who solves the case, just as long as he is caught and justice is served, and after reading the entirety of this work, it's clear that she is being honest. The depravity of the crimes that the Golden State Killer (also known as the East Area Rapist, the Original Night Stalker, and the Ransacker) was earth shattering, and the deep level of empathy that McNamara has for the victims and for the detectives working the case is palpable. This killer's work made my hair stand up on end, had me shuddering at night by myself on the couch, and crying to never be left home again. His calculating manner and his hatred for women is frightening, and to know that he is still out there, living a life, is sickening.

It's her full-scale, all-in, gung-ho love of this work that kept me up at night and invaded my dreams like injecting a serum into my brain. The disturbing details of the crime are surely enough to take over my thoughts for a while, but it's McNamara's writing that is the true gem of this book, and the biggest loss to readers everywhere. Gillian Flynn wrote the introduction, and she says that it's McNamara's writing style that makes you feel like you know her. (I'm paraphrasing, here, because I've already returned the book to the library where there are hundreds of holds waiting for it and who am I to keep this book longer than I need and keep it out of others' hands?) She, McNamara, is so personal in her work, even describing what got her hooked on true crime in her childhood. [For me it was the Polly Klaas kidnapping and murder -- not as personal as Michelle's, but stunning nonetheless.] McNamara writes for us as though she desperately needs us to have a playbook to find this man ourselves.

I understand how easy it is to go down the wormhole and not know how to get back out; I once spent twelve hours reading true crime murder cases online back when the internet was relatively new and the ability to do this was novel. McNamara, however, is in a class all by herself. I love Ann Rule, and I have a few others I think have told great stories, but I want to read every crime as told by Michelle McNamara. True Crime Diary, her blog, is a good start. 

No comments:

Post a Comment