I’ll Be Gone in the Dark

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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.

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 by Michelle McNamara

Publication Date: February 27, 2018 by Faber & Faber

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My Thoughts:

Pictures of this book kept popping up around social media sites and I immediately marked it for my future TBR pile since true crime novels are right up my alley. Once I heard news that the bastard had finally been caught after decades of eluding the police, I immediately snagged a copy so that I could catch up on the case. My only regret is that I didn’t pick this up sooner!

Michelle McNamara was an extremely gifted writer. Her knowledge about the Golden State Killer/East Area Rapist was encyclopedic and her genuine passion for wanting him to be caught is palpable in the way she shares the case’s extensive history and missing pieces. What could have easily felt a bit clinical is actually a really personal read and McNamara’s empathy for the survivors and anger for the victims is easy to sense in every chapter.

While I have always loved true crime novels and documentaries, the stories often focus more on the person responsible – it’s very hard to feel close to the victims of a killer because they are not there to share their story directly and much is relied upon through the third person narrative. What makes I’ll Be Gone in the Dark stand out is how close Michelle McNamara makes the reader feel to the victims of the EAR. This aspect of her writing style is also what makes the book so absolutely terrifying because you feel like you know the victims and are there when the EAR shatters their sense of safety in their own home. I live in a third floor walk-up and still had difficulty getting to sleep after reading a few chapters of this book – McNamara makes the EAR’s vicious attacks on people you’ve never met feel so up-close and personal.

It is clear that McNamara was haunted by this case both through the parts of her life she shares directly and in the details of research that is revealed after her death. After reading her book, I think it’s safe to say that she played a pivotal role in the hunt for the Golden State Killer and reigniting the public interest in getting justice for his victims. While it is sad to know that she was not alive to see it happen, her husband’s continued involvement in the publication of her book and the current updates in the case are a fantastic homage to her life and her work.

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