I don’t even know where to start with this one. I’m not usually a true crime person and will admit I was first intrigued by this because my favorite comedian Patton Oswalt was Mr. Michelle McNamara for the 10 years prior to her death. I knew vaguely that she was a badass crime writer who helped break this case before her sudden passing shortly before the killer was caught. My knowledge stopped there. The context gave this already-devastating, next-level book an extra gut punch for me as someone who listened to Oswalt’s comedy albums on loop as if they were “Led Zeppelin II” or “Rock For Light” in my early twenties.
The Golden State Killer committed a slew of hideous home-invasion rapes and murders in California in the 70s and 80s, frustrating law enforcement and sending surrounding neighborhoods into a panic. He was the rare smart, methodical criminal that seemed to grow more careful and elusive over time.
I often don’t have the stomach for true crime, but Mcnamara’s writing brims with compassion, fire and the desire of both the author and the investigators who are part of the story to bring the fuckwad to justice. The personal details of the crimes are handled with absolute humanity, and the spare autobiographical portions of the book are self-aware and poignant. I didn’t get the salacious or voyeuristic vibe that often keeps me away from the genre. It covers the geographical profiling, DNA testing and relentless elimination of what looked like promising suspects in excruciating detail, but just when it starts to feel technical the book again becomes about what I think it’s about at its core: the people. You feel the lives of the victims and their families never quite being the same, the loss, the frustration of the investigators whose obsession burns through marriages and years of life because they want to see him caught. You feel the slowness of basically waiting for technology to catch up with the players’ drive and investigative skill.
This was my favorite book so far this year and I can’t recommend it enough. The language is gorgeous and it seems like it was an investigative triumph that helped lead to the solving of the case.