Publication Feb 27, 2018 By Harper
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.”
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.
Riveting. Chilling. Fascinating. I could go on with the adjectives to describe this incredible work of nonfiction but you get the idea. It’s very rare that I come across a book, especially a nonfiction one, that literally made my heart race while reading certain scenes. Like others have mentioned, I couldn’t read this at night. To say it’s scary doesn’t seem to do Michelle’s writing justice, but it’s absolutely how I felt while reading about this elusive rapist/killer. She has created a brilliant work of investigative journalism that was, at times, terrifying, yet utterly gripping to read. I couldn’t put it down. When I wasn’t reading I was busy looking over my shoulder, checking the doors and windows and thinking about all the unsuspecting victims and communities he terrorized . It’s unfathomable on many levels….not just the crimes he committed but how he’s managed to continuously elude authorities. At times, he had been right there in front of them and yet he managed to vanish.
Michelle’s passion for her work and yes her obsession with finding this killer came alive through her evocative prose. I often felt that I was there with her, looking over her shoulder, reading the case files and notes. When the narrative went back in time to the various crime scenes, I felt I was walking alongside the detectives as they hunted this killer. Her writing captured the essence of everyone involved in this story and that includes the killer and his victims. For this reason, there may be many people who may not be able to read the scenes she describes; there is an abundance of rape victims whose stories she delicately details along with the murders he escalated to. This is integral to the story but never gratuitous. She perfectly balanced these details, however, with glimpses of her own life which I thoroughly enjoyed reading. She became a friend who invited me into her world which makes the fact that she died before finishing this book all the more tragic.
Something to keep in mind, the narrative does jump around in time quite often and not always in a sequential order. I’m not sure if this is indicative of the way Michelle was researching the story or that pieces were put together by the editors after her death. However, the fact that I was a little confused at times didn’t take away from the impact of the narrative. I often think the sign of a great book is one that not only teaches me something but also elicits a wide range of feelings within myself; I’ll Be Gone In the Dark has done both. And the ending…perfection.
Many thanks to HarperCollins via Edelweiss for my copy