I was looking for a good audiobook for my commute when I saw I’ll Be Gone in the Dark (2018) by Michelle McNamara was available. I remember reading some reviews from Cannonball when this book first came out. I was intrigued, but true crime is not really my thing–I don’t do well with violence, especially real violence–so I gave it a pass at the time. But I was still interested years later, and listening to it on audiotape seemed like a good compromise.
Since the murder of a teenage girl in McNamara’s neighborhood when she was a child, McNamara had been obsessed with true crime. Her interest focused on a series of unsolved burglaries, rapes, and murders that occurred in different neighborhoods of California from 1976 through 1984. At first these crimes were attributed to the East Area Rapist and the Original Night Stalker. When DNA confirmed that these crimes were committed by one person, his moniker was changed to EARONS. Michelle McNamara coined the much more memorable: Golden State Killer.
Michelle McNamara was married to Patton Oswald. She tragically died of a prescription drug overdose in 2016, in the midst of writing this book. Fortunately, her book was organized and gaps filled by others for publication. Two months after the book was released, the Golden State Killer was found through innovative (and possibly not quite legal) DNA searches.
I’m generally pretty trusting and feel pretty safe, so it was disturbing, to say the least, to listen to story after story of the Golden State Killer breaking into home after home and ruining innumerable lives. I’ve been pulling my shades down more since I began this book. I also appreciate my boyfriend’s security system more now, which I originally thought was overkill.
I found McNamara to be a very good writer. This book was not just a recounting of grisly murders and violent rapes–although there is plenty of that. McNamara also discussed what drove her to obsessively trace down every last lead in her efforts to discover the killer. She explains how neighbors can hear and see suspicious things and do nothing about it. She describes how it feels when you think you’ve finally nailed the suspect, only to find out that his DNA doesn’t match. She did an amazing job of balancing a hefty load of detailed information, potential suspects, police investigators, and her own thoughts on the crime–all while keeping the book very readable and interesting.
I already knew that the Golden State Killer had been found when I began reading this book. So while reading, I wished I could learn more about where the killer was and what he was doing while the search for him intensified. The authors did mention at the end that the real killer had never been a suspect until he was found by DNA. I’m imagining that he’s some kind of psychopath with a horrible childhood, but I did want to know more. I also want to know what made him stop. Most of all, I wish that McNamara could have finished her book herself, and that she could have been alive to see him captured.
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