A masterful true crime account of the Golden State Killer – the elusive serial rapist turned murderer who terrorised 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 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.
Isn’t it unbelievable that a person is able to stay undetected for so many years while he attacked more than 50 people in their homes and even escalated to murder? Well sadly this is the incredible but true story of the Golden State Killer, although he goes by a few other names as well in his early days such as the East Area Rapist or the Night Stalker.
After a very impressive introduction by Gillian Flynn I wanted to dive right in and see for myself what an unsurmountable task Michelle took upon herself. It was clear right away from the huge listing of places where he attacked that she had made an immense engagement to write this novel and to try and propel the investigation forwards.
I didn’t quite know what to expect of this novel, written by a woman who ploughed through so many documents, testimonials and notes but sadly passed away in her sleep before she could finish the story she had started. What I discovered from the parts she left behind was an intriguing portrait of the man responsible for so much grief over such a long period of time. Case after case passed before my eyes and it became clear how illusive this man is. What makes it even weirder is that even though there were many encounters with him – and we know it’s him because he has some particular markers of the things he does and pretty specific habits – his persona remains ever so vague. One time he’s described as blond haired, another time he has brown hair.. I couldn’t really get a good image of him in my head nor get a grip on who he is and what drives him. He’s really just as slippery as an eel and an important factor why he was able to stay out of the hands of the police for so long must have been because he was clever enough to expand his territory so it spanned several states. In those days there wasn’t a computer system yet that could detect the same MO in crimes over state borders and finger printing methods were also near non-existent, which became painfully obvious from this novel.
Where the first part of the novel was mostly a historical overview where I could feel the desperation that this perpetrator couldn’t be found, the second part of the novel was more hopeful and it shone a light on possible suspects, letting me scrutinize every morsel of additional information that was offered. Thoughts and ideas are tossed around and shared with the reader, even if dismissed subsequently. It was fascinating to read what possibilities there were and which loose ends needed more work. Michelle had interviews with retired detectives, went around to look at old crime scenes and her obsession for the investigation is almost palpable.
As much as this is a quest to find the Golden State Killer, it is also one to find out who Michele McNamera is and I think at least that last part was achieved. The novel didn’t feel finished and it really isn’t all neatly wrapped up and organised, but it gives a pretty good idea of all the work Michelle already did and what she was working on and you can feel what could have been if she had had the chance to continue her hard work.
I’ll Be Gone In The Dark is a novel that is begging to be discussed among readers and true crime lovers and I’m positive new ideas and courses of action will find root from this work. There are no set answers in the end but at least this novel will make sure that it is not put to rest and new energy can be drawn from this laborous oeuvre.
I received a free copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for my honest opinion.