Usually the research leading to a book is a means to an end. But with this one, I feel like the book is the means, and the real story lies in the lead up to the book.
We could talk about a man so evil he is believed to be responsible for more than 50 rapes and at least 12 homicides. A man who terrorized California for a decade…whose dauchebaggery was low enough to taunt a child, saying he was playing with mommy and daddy. A man who would call his victim’s before and after his crimes. A man who enjoyed sitting in quiet to make his blindfolded victims think he had left, only to remind them of his presence once they gathered the courage to get up to get help.
Or we could talk about Michelle McNamara, the late true-crime writer who became obsessed with the East Area Rapist. Whose research into this man led her throughout California visiting crime-scenes and meeting investigators, criminalists, arm-chair detectives, and even a forensic geneologist. Her efforts even led to the Orange County Sheriff’s Department releasing boxes, BOXES of case files to her in an effort to drum up leads in the case. Knowing first-hand the beauracracies that make up local law-enforcement agencies, my brain is boggled that she was able to so cleanly and easily cut through what could have amounted to miles of red tape.
This is a woman who searched the internet for trinkets stolen by the Golden State Killer, who coined this term for the man also known as the Visalia Ransacker and the Original Night Stalker. As her body of research grew, so did her manuscript for a book that was stopped short by her untimely death.
While some chapters are Michelle’s voice entirely, some are edited and pieced together. Notes before many chapters tell us the source material for that chapter, whether a previous article she’d written, or notes found on her computer. It is in this way you are reminded of the woman who hunted the Golden State Killer until her death. I found myself more saddened by her inability to finish her work and not see, just months after the publication of this book, Joseph DeAngelo arrested on eight counts of first degree murder and believed responsible for countless other crimes of deeply disturbing violence.
I was more moved by her life and work, than by the account of destruction committed by the pure evil described in the pages of this book. While it isn’t my favorite true-crime book I’ve ever read, the faults are understandable and forgivable.
You can thank her husband, Patton Oswalt, who saw that her book was published. Because he’d be damned if the Golden State Killer, who once threatened a victim, saying, “You’ll be silent forever,” was given one more opportunity to silence another voice.
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