Review: I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara

Review: I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara
I'll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara

Published by Harper on February 27, 2018
Genre: True Crime
Format: ARC, eBook
Source: Edelweiss

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I received an advance copy of this book from Edelweiss.

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, was determined to find the violent psychopath she called "the Golden State Killer." McNamara 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 McNamara'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.

For a decade in California, from 1976 to 1986, an unknown serial rapist terrorized more than fifty people. Initially, his victims were women. Later, his crimes would include couples. Eventually, sexual assault escalated to murder.

Dubbed the East Area Rapist and the Original Night Stalker (EAR/ONS), the predator somehow managed to evade police, despite dozens of investigations spanning numerous jurisdictions. His elusive nature, combined with the senseless acts of violence that he committed against so many, prompted true crime writer and journalist Michelle McNamara to study the case years later.

The search for the EAR/ONS—whom McNamara named the Golden State Killer—consumed McNamara, who spent countless hours researching possible suspects, theories, and clues. She connected with the case on a visceral level. Fascinated with true crime since she was a teenager, when a neighborhood girl was murdered by an unknown assailant, McNamara dedicated much of her life to researching cold cases. She documented her work on her website, True Crime Diary.

Sadly, McNamara passed away while in the process of writing this book, which was later completed by her co-researchers as well as her husband, comedian Patton Oswalt. To this day, the Golden State Killer has never been captured.

It feels terribly wrong that McNamara didn’t get the chance to complete the work that she was so dedicated to—finally seeing the Golden State Killer brought to justice. But her work lives on, and the compassion she felt for the many victims is a worthy legacy indeed.

Rating: 5 stars


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