Monday, February 24, 2020

I'll Be Gone In The Dark: One Woman's Obsessive Search for The Golden State Killer by Michelle McNamara

I'll Be Gone In The Dark: One Woman's Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer by Michelle McNamara
Published February 2018 by HarperCollins Publishers
Source: ebook checked out from my local library

Publisher's Summary:
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, 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.

My Thoughts: 
I've had this book on hold at the library for weeks and weeks. And when does it finally become available to me? While my husband is out for town. Yep, couldn't read a word of it while I was in the house alone and never at night. Of course, the subject matter alone is unnerving but it's also a credit to McNamara, and those who finished the book for her. It was so easy to visualize the scenes of the rapist/killer's attacks, to imagine what it must have been like for his victims.

For three decades this killer disappeared but he was never forgotten, not by law enforcement officers who worked tirelessly to try to catch during his crime spree, not by the officers who picked up the cold case, not by the criminologists who used DNA to tie all of the crimes to one man, and not by the legions of ordinary people, including McNamara, who became obsessed with solving these crimes. McNamara took it the next step, meeting with many of the officers involved in the original search and those who picked up the mantel and, literally, following in the killer's footsteps.

McNamara is a marvelous storyteller and if there's any flaw in the pieces where others filled in, it's that the storytelling piece is missing to some extent. Fortunately, McNamara left copious notes, rough drafts, and articles she had previously written on the subject. It's a shame she didn't live long enough to complete her vision but even more of a shame that she died before Joseph D'Angelo was arrested and charged with being the rapist and killer that McNamara dubbed the Golden State Killer. I wish she had been able to see him caught but I also would have loved to have gotten her take on D'Angelo and how he fit who she believed the killer to be.

This one is deserves all of the praise it has received and I highly recommend it. But only if you're not alone. Or reading at night.

On a personal note, this book completely vindicates all my years of paranoia. The Golden State Killer spent a considerable amount of time studying his victims before he attacked. He watched the houses, knew when they came and went, peered through blinds to track how they moved in the house. When I'm home alone I work hard to make things look both as normal as possible while at the same time changing things up enough that anyone watching my house wouldn't be able to track a routine, as best I can. My family thinks I'm nuts but I feel completely vindicated now!


  1. I chose this for my book club pick and there was a lot to discuss between the DNA advances, databases like and motive. I didn't really get the author's fascination with the case. She seemed to even put it before her family. I thought it was interesting how close she could get to that evidence given she had no official capacity to view it, really. I wanted to know more about the killer. That part we didn't really get because he was identified after her death. I felt it was missing something.

    1. I was surprised by that, too, that she could get so much info. I wonder if it was because it was a cold case and they were hoping that her interest might be able to help.

  2. Your review makes me want to read this. It sounds gripping, but yes, I won't read it on my own!