Title: I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer
Author: Michelle McNamara
Genre: Non-Fiction, True Crime
Date of Publication: February 27, 2018
Michelle McNamara was a true crime writer who coined the name “The Golden State Killer”. She was instrumental in connecting his crimes across California. This book, which is a perfect blend of true crime and memoir, was published posthumously. The editors pieced together finished chapters with Michelle’s notes and articles about the Golden State Killer that she’d written over the years.
This book isn’t about the Golden State Killer. Well, I suppose it is, but not directly. To me, this book is about the woman who was compelled to catch him. I think this is important to distinguish, because many true crime books focus on the killers, on the horrible deeds they did, and barely touch the surface of the people who fought for justice. I strongly believe that this shift in focus from the killer to the investigator is one of the reasons why this book became a bestseller. Michelle McNamara was a truly special woman, and her ambition, drive, and hard work was instrumental in catching the Golden State Killer.
This important perspective is represented in the way that Michelle tells the story. She talks about herself as well as others who investigated the crimes. She talks about how her “obsession” (her word, not mine–it’s in the title!) affected her personal life. Her husband, Patton Oswalt, was a well-known actor, and she provided anecdotes, such as one where she was accompanying him to red carpet event, but all she could think about was the latest break she’d made in the case.
The level of detail that McNamara went into is astounding. She left no rock unturned. The amount of time and effort she put into even the tiniest of clues was demonstrative of just how determined and focused she was on her goal. Her writing style was conversational yet professional, which can be very hard to pull off so elegantly. I’m not going to lie, the way she finished the last chapter of the book had me in tears! These pages are even more poignant knowing that the killer was caught after the publication of this book.
The book (at least the edition I read) didn’t talk about the capture of the killer. If you’re interested in reading an article about it, this CNN article was published a year after the Golden State Killer’s capture.
I highly recommend this book to anyone wanting to read a powerful memoir about a strong and influential woman–regardless of if you think you’re interested in true crime or not.
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