Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book

I'll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman's Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer

Rate this book
Goodreads Choice Award
Winner for Best Nonfiction (2018)

#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER  • The haunting true story of the elusive serial rapist turned murderer who terrorized California during the 70s and 80s, and of the gifted journalist who died tragically while investigating the case—which was solved in April 2018.

Introduction by Gillian Flynn • Afterword by Patton Oswalt

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. Utterly original and compelling, it has been hailed as a modern true crime classic—one which fulfilled Michelle's dream: helping unmask the Golden State Killer.

340 pages, Kindle Edition

First published February 27, 2018

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

Michelle McNamara

3 books788 followers
Michelle McNamara was a screenwriter, journalist, and true crime writer. She was the founder of the blog "True Crime Diary," which covers lesser-known crimes and cold cases. In 2005, she married comedian Patton Oswalt. They had one daughter together, born in 2009.

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
85,425 (38%)
4 stars
89,441 (40%)
3 stars
35,953 (16%)
2 stars
7,294 (3%)
1 star
2,501 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 18,793 reviews
Profile Image for Kemper.
1,390 reviews6,828 followers
April 2, 2019
**Update 4/26/2018 - When this book was published it was an unsolved mystery. It got a happy ending yesterday.**

I'd heard about Michelle McNamara before I even knew her name or that she was a true crime writer. She was married to comedian/actor Patton Oswalt, who I’m a big fan of, and several of his bits over the years have involved his wife. Per Patton’s descriptions in his routines she was a brilliant woman, far smarter than him, who was always operating at a whole other level.

Now I know what he was talking about after reading this book. It’s about a pure monster that should be one of the best known unsolved crime cases in American history, but many people have probably never heard of the Golden State Killer. It began in 1976 with a serial rapist terrorizing the suburbs of Sacramento. His MO was to break into homes in the middle of the night and surprise sleeping victims who he’d threaten with knives or guns. He often targeted couples or families and would rape a woman while her husband or boyfriend was tied up helpless in the next room. He’s also believed to have shot and killed a couple who had the misfortune to encounter him while out walking their dog.

His attacks spread to communities outside of San Francisco, but seemed to stop in mid-1979. Unfortunately, GSK had just moved south to the LA area where he started up again, but his first known attempt was thwarted when the couple fought back, and he narrowly escaped capture. Instead of scaring him off this triggered an escalation after which GSK would kill those he attacked until stopping in 1986, ten years after he began.

The full extent of the damage he’d done wasn’t known until DNA typing of cold cases was done in 2001. This confirmed what several detectives in various jurisdictions had suspected for years. The man called the East Area Rapist (EAR) during his crime spree in northern California was the same man who’d become known as the Original Night Stalker (ONS) in the southern part of the state. The statistics of his victims alone are staggering with over 50 women sexually assaulted and 12 murders. He may have also been responsible for a series of break-ins in Visalia a few years earlier, and if so there’s another murder to hang on him there for shooting a man who stopped an intruder from abducting his daughter in the middle of the night from their home.

It was Michelle McNamara who branded him the Golden State Killer after she began writing about the case on her blog and in magazine articles. She had became interested in true crime as a teenager after an unsolved murder of a young girl happened near her home. A big part of this story is about how this case came to obsess her, and she does not make an attempt to gloss over how much it took over her life. She has one story of asking her husband to leave a movie premiere party because of a new lead she was given that she couldn’t wait to get back to her laptop to start working on it. There’s another heartbreaking moment when she describes an anniversary dinner with Patton where she realized that not only had he given her gifts two years in a row based on her on-going work on GSK, but that she had been so consumed that she’d forgotten to get him anything at all.

Unfortunately, Michelle died unexpectedly in 2016 while in the middle of writing this book. Two of her fellow researchers finished it at Patton’s urging, and I’m very glad that happened because it would have been a shame if the work she did on this hadn’t been revealed so fully.

She was an incredibly gifted writer who can provide detail about GSK’s crime in such a way that we feel the full weight of what he did, and how incredibly scary this story is. It’s there as she details the evidence the police found that showed that GSK was a relentless night prowler who crept over fences, through backyards, across rooftops, and peeped windows from the shadows. It’s in the way she tells us the stories from the victims who were very often sound asleep in their beds and were awoken by a man wearing a ski mask shining a light in their eyes, showing them a knife, and telling them that he’d kill them if they didn’t do exactly what he said. While it never feels exploitive she conveys all the ways that the surviving victim’s lives were changed by the attacks on them. When she describes a detective’s years of chasing dead ends you can feel the frustration, and when she tells the story of a new lead you also start tapping into the hope that this might be the one to break the case.

In addition to being a great writer Michelle was a relentless researcher. I sometimes have issues with books or documentaries about true crime cases because I think it too often it shows confirmation bias or prefers wild conspiracy theories to more likely mundane facts and scenarios. She avoids those by imposing clear and logical standards to this which depended on fact checking and interviews rather than indulging in hunches or pet theories.

It’s very clear from what she wrote here that Michelle believed that this case could be solved with technology. The cops have the DNA of the Golden State Killer to use as the ultimate determination of guilt or innocence. Geo-Mapping his crime scenes should give an approximate location of where he lived. Scanning old case files and using key word recognition and data sorting can bring previously hidden connections to life. DNA databases are growing all the time, and all it takes is one hit from a relative to narrow it down to the family.* Michelle was convinced that GSK’s identity was in the existing evidence somewhere, and it’s just a matter of sifting through all the clues to find it.

Because of her death there several parts that rely on her early drafts, notes, old magazine articles, and even a tape she made of the conversation between her and a police detective while showing her some of the GSK’s crime scenes. That gives the book a bit of a disjointed feeling and makes you wish even more that she’d been able to finish it herself, but considering the circumstances it’s unavoidable and doesn’t prevent the full story from being told.

This will be going on my Best-of-True-Crime shelf, right next to In Cold Blood. And if they do ever catch the Golden State Killer I’ll bet it’s going to be due in no small part to the work of Michelle McNamara.

* This is exactly how the police eventually tracked him down.
Profile Image for Emily May.
1,964 reviews294k followers
December 20, 2018
“He loses his power when we know his face.”

And, it seems, we now do.

I can see why everyone speaks so highly of this book. It is a very impressive piece of investigative journalism, whether true crime stories happen to be your cup of tea or not. What makes I'll Be Gone in the Dark stand out - and what you might have seen come up time and again in other people's reviews - is that the writer is perhaps as fascinating as the subject.

It is the late Michelle McNamara at the centre of this piece - an intelligent and particularly astute woman who dedicated everything she had to pursuing the Golden State Killer, a moniker which she herself bestowed upon him. It is her dedication that is truly astounding. The lengths she went to in order to uncover the truth are quite unbelievable.

As the subtitle tells us, this was indeed an obsessive search. That's not just a dramatic buzzword. Behind the scenes of her daily life with her high-profile family, Michelle was hunting. She was scouring the Internet and the past for clues. She was reconstructing crime scenes, talking with witnesses, analyzing the evidence and building her own psychological profile of the killer.

Gillian Flynn writes in the introduction:
“I love reading true crime, but I’ve always been aware of the fact that, as a reader, I am actively choosing to be a consumer of someone else’s tragedy. So like any responsible consumer, I try to be careful in the choices I make. I read only the best: writers who are dogged, insightful, and humane.”

And McNamara is definitely all those things. Her work and writing never seem sensationalist. Her reconstructions of the disgusting crimes are detailed, but not in a gratuitous way. She writes sensitively with a deep sense of empathy for the victims, wishing, it seems, to paint them as more than just a list of victims from decades ago, but as three-dimensional human beings who lived through unspeakable tragedies.

This book is so popular that I know most of this has been said already, but I'm just really glad I finally gave in to the hype and read I'll Be Gone in the Dark. It is especially satisfying to know this man has finally been caught, and my only lingering disappointment stems from the fact that Michelle didn't live long enough to see it.

Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Youtube
Profile Image for Will Byrnes.
1,296 reviews120k followers
July 2, 2020
That summer I hunted the serial killer at night from my daughter’s playroom. For the most part I mimicked the bedtime routine of a normal person. Teeth brushed. Pajamas on. But after my husband and daughter fell asleep, I’d retreat to my makeshift workspace and boot up my laptop, that fifteen-inch-wide hatch of endless possibilities…I rarely moved but I leaped decades with a few keystrokes. Yearbooks. Marriage certificates. Mug shots. I scoured thousands of pages of 1970s-era police files. I pored over autopsy reports. That I should do this surrounded by a half-dozen stuffed animals and a set of miniature pink bongos didn’t strike me as unusual. I’d found my searching place, as private as a rat’s maze. Every obsession needs a room of its own. Mine was strewn with coloring paper on which I’d scribbled down California penal codes in crayon. - from the prologue
I’ll Be Gone in the Dark is not just a tale of a decade-long crime spree, of a maddeningly elusive peeper, burglar, rapist, and murderer. It is not only a tale of obsession, as the author, and others with her particular inclination, bury themselves in the forensic, statistical, genetic, and geographical trail left by this relentless offender. It is a story as well of how some dedicated active and retired police, and private citizens worked hand in hand to try to track down a homicidal monster. It is also a story of the impact that monster had on the communities he terrorized and on how advances in technology over several decades shortened the distance between suspicion and apprehension.

Michelle McNamara hard at work - image from The Times - provided to them by Patton Oswalt

McNamara had always wanted to be a writer, but she gained some focus on what to write as a teen.
[Her] fascination with the grisly began when she was just 14, when a young woman named Kathleen Lombardo, whom McNamara knew from church, was murdered while jogging a block and a half away from McNamara’s home in Oak Park, Illinois. The man who slit Lombardo’s throat was never found. McNamara would be forever haunted by what she’d later describe as “the specter of that question mark where the killer’s face should be.” - From Vulture article
She takes us along with her, introducing readers to three general groups of people, the victims, the professional investigators, and her small band of amateur sleuths. These are not deep profiles, but we are given enough about each to understand their roles in the ongoing drama, and their motivation.

Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Office sketches of a masked man who had fled a crime scene in 1979 and an artist’s impression of the killer – image from The Times

The first crimes took place in the 1970s, the last known GSK crime was committed in 1986. He began with simple burglaries, dozens of them, enough to earn a tabloid name, The Ransacker, then moved on to rape. One of his victims was thirteen. The tabloids called him the East Area Rapist (EAR) and the Original Night Stalker (ONS), often merging the two to EAR-ONS. He was nearly caught after one couple resisted, so, to ensure not only compliance, but that there would be no witnesses, he moved on to homicide. His home invasions were well planned, professionally executed, and particularly cruel. It was not enough to rape women. He made many of the women tie up their husbands or boyfriends, and forced them to watch him commit the rape. He had a signature technique for monitoring whether the male victims moved. Movement, they were told, would get their partner killed. And sometimes he killed them anyway, both of them. During her research, McNamara coined the GSK tag for him, the Golden State Killer.

Attacks attributed to the GSK – image from the Sacramento County DA’s office by way of the NY Times

McNamara takes us through not just the clues that accumulated over the years, but methodologies for looking into them. There is some very surprising information here on what happens to old police files. We follow along as new methods are added to tried and true shoe-leather investigation. There were two major technological breakthroughs over the four decades of the investigation. DNA fingerprinting was the first. And even once it was put into widespread use there were still problems with local police departments coordinating with other PDs. She walks us through how that changed. The other major item is what you are using right now, the internet. All the information in the world is useless without the ability to connect a fact here to a crime there. The internet, McNamara predicted, was what would eventually allow for the apprehension of the GSK. It is quite cheering when McNamara begins to connect with other cold-crime obsessives across the country, and they begin sharing theories, and sometimes actual evidence. It was an incredibly long investigation, and such projects come with some built-in risk.
falling for a suspect is a lot like the first surge of blind love in a relationship. Focus narrows to a single face. The world and its practical sounds are a wan soundtrack to the powerful silent biopic you’re editing in your mind at all times. No amount of information on the object of your obsession is enough. You crave more. Always more. You note his taste in shoes and even drive by his house, courtesy of Google Maps. You engage in wild confirmation bias. You project. A middle-aged white man smiling and cutting a cake decorated with candles in a picture posted on Facebook isn’t celebrating his birthday, but holding a knife.
As with the infamous Kitty Genovese incident in 1964, how people react not just to crime but to neighborhood security in general comes in for some scrutiny here.
That’s what we all do. All of us. We make well-intentioned promises of protection we can’t always keep.
I’ll look out for you.
But then you hear a scream and you decide it’s some teenagers playing around. A young man jumping a fence is taking a shortcut. The gunshot at three a.m. is a firecracker or a car backfiring. You sit up in bed for a startled moment. Awaiting you is the cold, hard floor and a conversation that may lead nowhere: you collapse onto your warm pillow, and turn back to sleep.
Sirens wake you later.
People did react in some ways. Sacramento saw a spate of residents trimming trees and uprooting bushes to deny cover to the GSK, installing floodlighting, reinforcing doors, sleeping with hammers under pillows, and buying thousands of guns. Victim support groups formed, some of the victimized men joining neighborhood patrols. Community safety meetings were packed. There were some positive impacts from GSK’s dark deeds, though.
The case had a profound impact not just on fear and public safety in California, but also on the way that rapes were investigated and how rape victims were treated, said Carol Daly, a detective in the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Office at the time…Rape victims were seen and cared for faster, and pubic hair, scratches and other evidence were examined and preserved, she said. Rape kits were standardized. “Every victim went through the process,” she said. - From 4/25/18 – NY TIMES article
When my wife was reading this book, some time ago, she became a bit paranoid safety conscious, jumping at small unexpected sounds, then wanting to investigate (in a house with as many cats as we have, unexpected noises are abundant) making extra certain that our windows and doors were locked, watching a tick or two longer than usual at people passing by (living next door to a pizzeria, they are legion), keeping the lights on a bit longer than usual when going to bed. Point being that the book, while hardly a horror novel, can indeed induce a serious case of jitters. And why not? The nutter of which McNamara writes was not caught during the decades investigators private and professional worked the case. He was still on the loose when McNamara passed away,

McNamara’s writing skills are considerable. She keeps the narrative moving, slickly evading the potential peril of death by excessive detail. She reports on some of the gore the GSK generated, but not too much, not nearly as much as she might have. She has an ability to clarify the forensics, while keeping us in touch with the terrors experienced by the victims, and the hopes and frustrations of the diverse posse on the GSK’s trail. Occasionally a particular passage or turn of phrase will make you sit back and sigh in appreciation, but the narrative chugs on and each particular gem is allowed to please, then recede into the rearview. The pair who took on the task of completing the book when McNamara died retrieved some fine samples from her notes. For example,
He was a compulsive prowler and searcher. We, who hunt him, suffer from the same affliction. He peered through windows. I tap “return.” Return. Return. Click Mouse click, mouse click…The hunt is the adrenaline rush, not the catch. He’s the fake shark in Jaws, barely seen so doubly feared.
McNamara died in her sleep, in April, 2016, at age 46, from a combination of drugs interacting with an undiagnosed medical condition that caused a blockage in her arteries. She had been stressed out from working on this book, putting in long hours and suffering anxiety and nightmares that kept her from sleeping. Her husband engaged researcher Paul Haynes and investigative journalist Billy Jensen to complete the book McNamara had worked on for so long, and with such dedication.
A week after Michelle’s death, we gained access to her hard drive and began exploring her files on the Golden State Killer. All 3,500 of them. That was on top of dozens of notebooks, the legal pads, the scraps of paper, and thousands of digitized pages of police reports. And the thirty-seven boxes of files she had received from the Orange County prosecutor, which Michelle lovingly dubbed the Mother Lode.
The GSK burglarized more than 120 homes, raped dozens of women, killed at least ten people, and at least one dog during the 1970s and 1980s. We do not know how many people he drove mad in their decades-long inability to find him, or how many lives were ruined as a result of his crimes. The good news is that in April 2018, only a few months after the publication of Michelle McNamara’s book, a 72-year-old man, Joseph James DeAngelo was arrested, based on DNA evidence. The Golden State Killer is finally in jail. He had not killed anyone in thirty years, as far as we know, but it is in the nature of such sprees to have a strong impact long after the events themselves. Meg Gardiner, who grew up in Santa Barbara, in one of DeAngelos target neighborhoods, tells of the experience of terror during the period of the killer’s mayhem.
Yesterday my brother texted: “I have a different feeling driving around the neighborhood today. It was always in the back of my mind that he could still be living around here. In a weird way it feels safer.”
It does. The fear is gone. But the shadows remain.
So does Michelle McNamara’s work, her legacy, a major contribution to finally locking up a long-sought monster.

HBO has bought the rights and plans to develop I’ll Be Gone in the Dark into a documentary mini-series.

Joseph James DeAngelo, 72 – believed to be the Golden State Killer – image from Sacramento County Sheriff’s Office

Review posted – June 15, 2018

Publication date – February 27, 2018

December 2018 - I'll Be Gone in the Dark wins the 2018 Goodreads Choice Award for non-fiction

The HBO series of I’ll Be Gone in the Dark begins June 28, 2020

==========In the summer of 2019 GR reduced the allowable review size by 25%, from 20,000 to 15,000 characters. In order to accommodate the text beyond that I have moved it to the comments section directly below.

Profile Image for viktoria.
214 reviews57 followers
April 25, 2018
ETA 4/25/18 in the most holy crap, hopeful, bawling kind of way:

I hope you got him, Michelle.

I hope THEY got him. #IllBeGoneInTheDark #MichelleMcNamara #stepintothelight https://t.co/ewq3NyCz56

— Patton Oswalt (@pattonoswalt) April 25, 2018

I'm not crying. You're crying.

Original Review, 11/16/17:

Confession: I'm what you would call a murderino.

I listen to My Favorite Murder religiously, I watch the hell out of Investigation Discovery (City Confidential is amazing), and I listen to a few other podcasts. Sadly, I never read Michelle McNamara's work until after her death. After reading a few articles, I saved reading the rest until after I read this book.

I'm going to try not to fangirl all over the place, but this was stunningly amazing.

It was such a personal story. McNamara shared so much of herself in this book without overwhelming it, and you really feel her dedication in the text. Her personal touch helps distract from the dehumanizing brutality of the crime very effectively. In a weird way, I almost felt like I had gained a friend during the book, like I was in the car driving with her or scanning through text-filled databases in the middle of the night, too, and that's a difficult feeling to evoke, especially in this genre.

Likewise, the story focuses on the many of detectives (both law enforcement and less official sleuths) who worked the case and the victims as much as it does the killer. While you get to know McNamara and her story, you also get to know the generations of detectives and their tenacity, frustration, heartbreak, and courage. The suspense builds and falls as the investigators chase leads, then stall, and all the while, you hope for the big break in a way they've learned to not bet on so earnestly.

The ending, however, is a little bittersweet. You know going in that the GSK remains uncaught and about McNamara's death, but both still hit me hard. Yet, throughout both McNamara's text and the ending by follow-up authors, there's an unwavering conviction that they'll catch the responsible one day, and when I finished the final page, that sense of resolve was the strongest emotion I felt.

A few random things I loved worth mentioning:

1. McNamara's unmistakable empathy for the victims, the detectives and LEOs, and the communities;
2. She was never gratuitous describing the rapes or murders, yet she didn't sacrifice attention to detail or suspense;
3. Likewise, she acknowledged the complexity of the crime and how difficult it's been to catch the GSK because of it, but never festishized him, either.
4. (This might sound weird, but I've heard and read some accounts where they make rape sound like erotica or it's uncomfortably detailed and you want to throw the book across the room and clean it in bleach);
5. She had such truly excellent, beautiful, and suspenseful writing.

tl;dr: Seriously, I'll Be Gone in the Dark shows such exceptional, suspenseful writing and beautiful dedication. I cried at the end in the best of ways.

pre-read: Of course, when I have four freaking books with a holds list that I have obligations to read, you, my beautiful love, come into my life, after I've been pining after you for months. You're only the book I've been most looking forward to ALL YEAR.

Profile Image for Emily (Books with Emily Fox).
531 reviews58.7k followers
February 17, 2019
(3.5) An interesting topic, an impressive woman and research... but not my jam.

I would recommend the audiobook as I don't think I would have enjoyed it as much if I had read it myself!
Profile Image for Kelly (and the Book Boar).
2,451 reviews7,559 followers
May 29, 2018
Find all of my reviews at: http://52bookminimum.blogspot.com/

I had a feeling I would be the dissenting opinion on this one right from the start when the author performed a Google search for some stolen cufflinks based off of a sketch (not an actual picture) and swore she found the exact items (for a bargain price of $8 even) and that she would be able to identify the original owner/identify the perp due to the fact that “names starting with the letter N” weren’t very prevalent on the Top 100 Baby Names list at the time and also thought it was perfectly reasonable to Ziploc baggie the things and present them to the police (because DNA evidence would still be present 30 years later??? Zoinks). I stopped watching Nancy Grace once my firstborn started sleeping through the night and I wasn’t held prisoner by the lack of viewing options at 2:00 a.m., thank you very much.

I feel I need to disclose that I received an Advanced Reader’s Copy of Patton Oswalt’s book . . . . that I still have not read because he broke what is left of my dried out rotten apple of a heart when his wife died unexpectedly and he shared how shattered he was and I can’t bear to even think about picking the damn thing up to this day. That being said, I understand why getting I’ll Be Gone In The Dark to print was so important to him. But it’s MY belief that reviews should be honest - and honestly??? I don’t get the hype. I don’t think McNamara’s writing is particularly brilliant unless you are interested in what type of clothing and music were popular at the time of a crime rather than details of the cases (not to mention the fact that she only wrote half of it before she died, making it EXTREMELY choppy); the timeline itself is 100% disjointed and hops from past to future to past again without rhyme or reason; despite the “EAR” or “ONS” or “EAR/ONS” being responsible for 50+ crimes hardly any are covered in this book; and last, but certainly not least, McNamara doesn’t seem to have had too much insight into the case at all, but rather an obsession/borderline addiction where conjecture rules and fellow couch commandos are considered experts (if you’ve ever been on a site like Websleuths or the like, you’ll know the exact opposite is true).

Bottom line is: I don’t think this would have ever been published were it not for her husband being famous and making it happen as part of his grieving process. Good news for everyone involved is that the Golden State Killer wound up being caught which gave I’ll Be Gone In The Dark new life and a sort of cult following and very few people who want to go on record as “poo poo-ing” it due to McNamara’s untimely death. Obviously I drank the Kool-Aid because I read the thing too. I’m just also willing to shit on everyone else’s sundae.
Profile Image for Emma Giordano.
317 reviews116k followers
September 21, 2018
A very enjoyable read!

TW: graphic depictions of rape/assault/murder

Though true crime is a great field of interest to me, I haven't read many books of this variety. I was pleasantly satisfied with my time reading I'll Be Gone In The Dark. The narration was vivid and engaging. I appreciated the feeling of it being almost like a memoir from McNamara's perspective rather than just stating facts about the case.

My only struggle with the book was that it was hard to keep track of EACH victim and EACH detail of their individual cases. The order of them became muddled as I delved deeper into the book, but it's possibly not due to the writing itself but factors of my personal experience, such as choosing to listen to the audiobook version or my lack of knowledge of true crime novels in general. Though, I did see another review claim the events are not revealed chronologically throughout the book, so that's also a potential factor!

Overall, a great read and a great listen! Would definitely recommend to my fellow true crime fans. This books is full of detail and great value towards closing this case.
Profile Image for Miranda Reads.
1,589 reviews155k followers
May 2, 2021

Halloween is just around the corner and it's time for some spooky books - but which ones are worth your time? Check out this BookTube Video for answers!
The Written Review

Open the door. Show us your face.
Walk into the light.
The Golden State Killer began as a rapist and transitioned to a murderer - he reigned over California for over a decade...and then he just disappeared. Gone.

Michelle McNamara, a true crime journalist, became interested in this cold case thirty years after it was published.
I love reading true crime, but I’ve always been aware of the fact that, as a reader, I am actively choosing to be a consumer of someone else’s tragedy.
She ran a popular website - called TrueCrimeDiary.com - and soon her mere interest became an obsession.
He loses his power when we know his face.
And so the search began.

Using the technology of today to track down this elusive killer.
I lamented to one of them that I felt I was grasping at straws.
“My advice? Grasp a straw,” he said. “Work it to dust.”
She chronicled her journey and the evidence she gathered in this book I'll Be Gone in the Dark but before she could publish, she died.

But this book is one that was meant to be finished because hidden within its pages may be the evidence that finally unmasks this murderer.
He pointed a knife at her and issued a chilling warning: “Make one move and you’ll be silent forever and I’ll be gone in the dark.”

I don't read much true crime because - like the quote above - it feels a bit weird, intrusive even, to read about someone else's tragedy.

But there was something that compelled me to pick up McNamara's book and I'm so glad I did.

It was so wonderfully written, the evidence was crazy and the overall feel of the book was amazing.

So many twists and turns - I found myself holding my breath and crossing my fingers as we approached the ending.

It's definitely not one I'll forget.

Other Booktube Videos Featuring This One!

CLICK HERE for a Booktube Video about:

Ten Fabulous Book Reviews and One That Will Make You Go - doesn't that belong to Miranda Reads?

Now that you know this one made the list check the video review to see the rest (and find the stolen surprise)!
YouTube | Blog | Instagram | Twitter | Facebook | Snapchat @miranda_reads
Profile Image for Chelsea Humphrey.
1,440 reviews78.1k followers
May 22, 2018
Incredible. It was a pleasure to listen to this following the capture of Joseph Deangelo, and it's excruciating to think that Michelle was so close to unveiling one of the most notorious serial rapists and murderers in US history. If you haven't managed to snag this one yet, I highly recommend listening to the audiobook if that's your thing; all the narrators were beyond excellent and audible has all the pdf downloads available to view alongside while listening. Highly recommended for fans of true crime and those looking to get a glimpse not only into the EAR, but also Michelle's personal life and struggles as well. All of the stars. <3
Profile Image for Matthew.
1,219 reviews8,839 followers
August 11, 2019
Update 8/11/2019 - I just finished the new season of Veronica Mars on Hulu. In it, Patton Oswalt plays a character who is obsessed with solving cold cases and other crimes the police are struggling with. As soon as I realized that is what his character was and how much it reminded me of his wife as described in this book, I began to wonder if he was offered the role as a tribute to her . . .

4.25 stars

I guarantee you will not be able to read this book without many stops to do Wikipedia and Google maps searches. Just do yourself a favor and don’t read too much on line before you finish the book – it is much more suspenseful that way.

I’ll Be Gone In The Dark is a posthumous collection of narratives, notes, dialogue, and other evidence collected by McNamara that she was working into a book that she never got to see come to fruition. Because of this, some of the parts are polished, while other parts are raw, and some may even feel disjointed. I think if she had lived to see it through, it would have come across as much cleaner. However, I don’t think this is a bad thing. It is kind of fascinating to see a snapshot of an investigation before it is ready and complete. Not only is who the Golden State Killer is a mystery, but where McNamara was going with her notes is a mystery as well.

One interesting aspect of this book is that it has a lot of autobiography of McNamera as well. Often, true crime is just a compilation of the details with the author’s involvement being of little or no importance. Another true crime mainstay, Ann Rule, became involved with the story in her book The Stranger Beside Me, as well as in her book about the Green River Killer (Green River, Running Red). I definitely think it is interesting to see an involvement in the investigation beyond just researching, compiling, and regurgitating information. The personal touch and commitment is felt very strongly!

With that in mind, I feel like the key takeaway from this book is how obsession works on both sides. The killer rapist had his meticulous modus operandi that allowed many crimes covering a wide area to be connected by certain evidence. The author had her daily routine of web searches, library visits, travels to 30 year old crime scenes, etc. which frequently led to frustration and tears. Without the criminal, there would have been no need for the investigation. Without the author, many unsolved mysteries could have been relegated to cold case status forever. Unfortunately, she didn’t live to see if her obsessive dedication led to any success.

I think this is a true crime book worth the time of any fan of the genre. As is often the case, some of the content matter may be difficult for some, so proceed with caution if you are sensitive.

Click on this next part only if you have finished the book and done some follow-up research:

Profile Image for Tammy.
512 reviews431 followers
November 6, 2017
This one didn’t quite do it for me. I found the story interesting because I knew absolutely nothing about this killer that got away (not a spoiler). The development of the methodologies to apprehend criminals was fascinating and many of the terms are commonplace today. It’s an uneven book and I found myself mentally re-writing sentences for clarity. The messy sentences (in places) may be the result of piecing together a book from the deceased author’s notes and trying to retain her voice. It’s worth reading if you are a fan of true crime.
Profile Image for Dr. Appu Sasidharan (Dasfill).
1,157 reviews2,191 followers
April 14, 2023
There are only very few books that fascinate us and scare us at the same time.

This is one among them. Golden state killer is a topic I have heard multiple times during my childhood in various magazines, newspapers, and the media.

Michelle McNamara did a spectacular job of helping find the Golden State Killer. The way she pushed the need to study genetic genealogy to nail down the killer's identity was remarkable. From creating the website, TrueCrimeDiary.com to interviewing victims and spending endless hours, she was determined to solve this case.

My favorite three lines from this book.
"I love reading true crime, but I've always been aware of the fact that, as a reader, I am actively choosing to be a consumer of someone else's tragedy. So like any responsible consumer, I try to be careful in the choices I make. I read only the best: writers who are dogged, insightful, and humane."

"We swim or sink against our deficits in life."

"He loses his power when we know his face."

The way the author functioned to solve this case will fascinate you, and you can read this part like an investigative thriller. The way the mind of the psychopath - the killer worked might shock you to the core. This book is one of the best examples of crime journalism, and you should never miss it if you love reading books related to crime journalism.

You can also follow me on
Instagram ID - Dasfill | YouTube Channel ID - Dasfill | YouTube Health Channel ID - Dasfill - Health | YouTube Malayalam Channel ID - Dasfill - Malayalam | Twitter ID - Dasfill1 | Snapchat ID - Dasfill | Facebook ID - Dasfill | TikTok ID - Dasfill1
Profile Image for Julie .
4,030 reviews58.9k followers
March 28, 2018
I'll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman's Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer by Michelle McNamara is a 2018 Harper publication.

No butler, no second maid, no blood upon the stair. No eccentric aunt, no gardener, no family friend smiling among the bric-a-brac-and murder. Only a suburban house with the front door open and a dog barking at a squirrel, and the cars passing. The corpse quite dead. The wife in Florida. Consider the clues: the potato masher in a vase, the torn photograph of a Wesleyan basketball team, scattered with the check stubs in the hall; the unsent fan letter to Shirley Temple, the Hoover button on the lapel of the deceased, the note: ‘To be killed this way is quite all right with me.” Small wonder the case remains unsolved, or that the sleuth. Le Roux is now incurably insane, and sits alone in a white room in a white gown, screaming that the world is mad, that clues lead nowhere, or to walls so high their tops cannot be seen; Screaming all day of war, screaming that nothing can be solved- Weldon Kees, “Crime Club”

What a fitting epigraph!

This book sincerely scared the crap out of me. I grew up in the seventies, one of the creepiest decades, filled with terrifying serial killers and rapists, but I was not familiar with this case. This book reminded me of how taut the atmosphere was in those days, as the author details her hunt for a prolific serial rapist, which eventually escalated to murder, who went on a virtually unchecked rape and murder spree in California in the seventies.

The author dubbed the killer ‘The Golden State Killer’, as she slowly pieced together the evidence and the many victims, working tirelessly to put a face and a name to the moniker she’d give him. Michelle was a true crime journalist, who started the website, ‘TrueCrimeDiary.com, as this case became an obsession with her.

The crime wave and the horrifying details sent chills down my spine and made the hair stand up on the back of my neck on more than one occasion. The rapist was smart, and planned his attack down to the smallest detail, having stalked the unsuspecting victims for a good while, knowing them intimately before making his move.

Eventually, the crimes ceased, but no one knows exactly why. The author has her theories, and I would have to agree with her assessment.

The disheartening thing here is the feeling that McNamara was closing in, making progress, despite the roadblocks, setbacks, and dead ends that comes with this type of investigation. As everyone knows, Michelle died before this book was completed, which adds yet another haunting layer to this book.

Her passion seeps through the pages, along with her single- minded determination, that did border on obsession. I can see how that could happen, as this case was never solved and there is a sense of urgency about the book. The clock is ticking, and the feeling is one of being ‘so close, yet so far’, with time is running out for justice.

Michelle's private life musings, added a more personal touch, something that might not always come off so well in the true crime arena, but I think the author was attempting to share with readers how her obsession and desire to see the case solved influenced and bled over into her personal life, taking up her every waking thought. It lends a poignancy, and occasionally a little humor, to the book that does offset the gruesome revelations unearthed about the crimes and the victims.

One quick note about how the book was written, since it was published posthumously, and Michelle had not completed the book before her death. It is my understanding that her lead researchers pieced the book together using what Michelle had already written, along with her extensive notes. Unfortunately, the organization, and presentation, is not great. In true crime, disorganization is a huge pet peeve of mine and I would, under ordinary circumstances, have been more than a little exasperated and disappointed. In this case, I was a lot more forgiving, but I still think someone should have polished it up a little better. I would not let that deter you from reading this book, however, as, despite the bumpy ride, it is still quite an effective read.

Unless you have nerves of steel, I don’t recommend reading this book alone at night, because it will certainly give you the heebie jeebies. But, I do hope the book generates enough attention that someone might come forward with new information or will pick up the torch and continue the search for the elusive ‘Golden State Killer’.

4 stars
Profile Image for karen.
3,979 reviews170k followers
November 6, 2018
oooh, goodreads choice awards semifinalist for best nonfiction 2018! what will happen?

fulfilling book riot's 2018 read harder challenge task #2: A book of true crime

no extry points this time.

there’s almost no point in my writing a content-based review of this book - i’m late to the party and better folks than me have already admirably and exhaustively covered both what the book is about and the unusual circumstances occurring beyond its covers - michelle mcnamara’s sudden death two years before the book’s publication, and the arrest of the golden state killer two months after it hit shelves.

i’m not going to say much more than that this man was a monster (duh) and i’m glad he’s finally been caught and i hope he lives long enough to suffer profoundly for what he’s done. and, seemingly at odds with this unsavory part of me wishing bad things upon a bad person, that mcnamara’s writing is vivid and empathetic and even though i am not well-read in the true crime genre, she seems to bring something extra to the table, which is better-articulated in gillian flynn’s introduction:

I love reading true crime, but I’ve always been aware of the fact that, as a reader, I am actively choosing to be a consumer of someone else’s tragedy. So like any responsible consumer, I try to be careful in the choices I make. I read only the best: writers who are dogged, insightful, and humane.

It was inevitable that I would find Michelle.

I’ve always thought the least appreciated aspect of a great true-crime writer is humanity. Michelle McNamara had an uncanny ability to get into the minds of not just the killers but the cops who hunted them, the victims they destroyed, and the trail of grieving relatives left behind.

she’s empathetic and observant throughout, and it’s so unfortunate that parts of this book had to be compiled and cobbled together from articles she published elsewhere or assorted notes, and (double, triple, quadruple duh) even more unfortunate that she never got to see it published, or to see the overwhelmingly positive response to it, or to see this man finally behind bars.

i’m just going to share a few passages that struck me while i was reading this, and you can go out and read the book for yourself and find your own striking passages, because there will probably be more than a few.

this one gave me chills and anger:

He was brazen. Twice he entered homes, pressing on undeterred when he knew victims had spotted him and were frantically dialing the police. Children didn’t bother him. He never hurt them physically, but he would tie up the older ones and put them in another room. He put Jane’s toddler son on the bedroom floor during the attack. The boy fell asleep. When he awoke, he peered over the bed. The EAR had left. His mother lay bound in strips of torn towels and was gagged with a washcloth. He mistook the ligatures for bandages.

“Is the doctor gone?” he whispered.

this one made me feel awe and admiration:

It was a little after four a.m. when the first officer entered the opened rear patio door, hesitantly making his way toward the woman calling out to him. She lay face down on her living room floor, naked, her wrists and ankles tied behind her with shoelaces. A ski-masked stranger had just spent an hour and a half terrorizing Fiona and her husband. He brutally raped her. Fiona was five two, 110 pounds - a wisp of a woman. She was also a native Sacramentan, in possession of a dry, matter-of-fact manner, a clear-eyed resilience that belied her petite size.

“Well, I guess the East Area Rapist is the South Area Rapist now,” she said.

and this long one made me really appreciate that empathetic, observant part of the author. people like her should really be consultants for writers and actors and employed as “perspective coaches,” if that is such a thing. it should be a thing.

After spending enough hours with them, I’ve noticed a few things about detectives. They all smell vaguely of soap. I’ve never met a detective with greasy hair. They excel at eye contact and have enviable posture. Irony is never their go-to tone. Wordplay makes them uneasy. The good ones create long conversational vacuums that you reflexively fill, an interrogation strategy that proved to me through my own regrettable prattle how easily confessions can be elicited. They lack facial elasticity; or rather, they contain it. I’ve never met a detective who pulled a face. They don’t recoil or go wide-eyed. I’m a face maker. I married a comedian. Many of my friends are in show business. I’m constantly surrounded by big expressions, which is why I immediately noticed the lack of them in detectives. They maintain a pleasant but vigorous blankness that I admire. I’ve tried to imitate it, but I can’t. I came to recognize subtle but discernible shifts in the blankness - a narrowing of the eyes, a jaw squeeze, usually in response to hearing a theory they’ve long since eliminated. A veil comes down. But they’ll never tip their hand. They’ll never tell you, “We already looked into that angle ages ago.” Instead they’ll just absorb it and leave you with a polite “Huh.”

In their reserve and in virtually every other way, detectives differ from show-biz folks. Detectives listen. They’re getting a read. Entertainers get a read only to gauge their influence on a room. Detectives deal in concrete tasks. I once spent an hour listening to an actress friend analyze a three-line text that hurt her feelings. Eventually I’ll see the cracks in a detective’s veneer, but in the beginning their company is an unexpected relief, like fleeing a moodily lit cast party loud with competitive chatter and joining a meeting of determined Eagle Scouts awaiting their next challenge. I wasn’t a native in the land of the literal-minded, but I enjoyed my time there.

so, although you don’t need one more review from a stranger telling you that this book is worth reading, i have written one anyway.

come to my blog!
Profile Image for j e w e l s.
309 reviews2,373 followers
March 19, 2018

My queen, Gillian Flynn, starts this book with a Midwestern twang and down-to-earth introduction; Patton Oswalt ends with a heart-rending final chapter and I was spellbound the entire time by Michelle McNamara's non-fiction novel.

A mind-blowing mountain of evidence to sift through and present in one novel only slightly frightened Michelle McNamara. What truly frightened her and kept her awake at night was the fact that the Golden State Killer has gotten away with his 10 year reign of terror and is possibly blending into society as someone's husband or dad now.

Yes, McNamara was obsessed with her search for the monster. If you read even a small item about this killer/rapist, I doubt you can remain content to leave it at that. It is impossibly frustrating in this day of DNA instant matching that the creep could still be walking the streets. She rightfully felt until the day she died that she was on the verge of identifying the killer, probably through an Ancestry.com like site.

A true-crime blogger, McNamara knew she was obsessed with GSK and does not hold back the introspective criticism. She knows herself and she understands people on a level that most of us don't. The seasoned and weary criminalists on the case came to appreciate, even rely on her skills. She, in turn, relied heavily on crowd-sourcing and advanced technology to help in the relentless search.

She writes impressively about the victims, the survivors and the detectives involved. She articulates the many (50) cases in bite-sized chunks and does not glorify nor hold back the details. It is a terrifying book, yet full of compassion and understanding for the victims.

My mouth continually fell open and my head was shaking NO as I listened to this moving account from one woman with an enormous investigation to relate to the public. It is simply a magnificent piece of work. The audio narration is AMAZING, but I still ended up buying the Kindle version to look at the maps and other evidence she has pictured.

If you are interested to check out a sample of the book, you can read her magazine article here. http://www.lamag.com/longform/in-the-...
Profile Image for Christina Loeffler.
135 reviews17.3k followers
August 12, 2018
5, well I'll be sleeping with a baseball bat forever now stars!!!

🎶Everyday I'm feeling fine,
Drinking wine,
Forever reading true crime

This starts with an introduction by juggernaut thriller author Gillian Flynn and ends with a heartbreaking and beautiful epilogue by McNamara's husband and esteemed actor Patton Oswalt. What happens in-between was pure, unadulterated journalistic *magic*.

“Writing this now, I’m struck by two incompatible truths that pain me. No one would have taken more joy from this book than my mother. And I probably wouldn’t have felt the freedom to write it until she was gone.”

While on its surface, this is a story about an elusive burglar, rapist, and murderer dubbed the Golden State Killer - at its heart, it's really a look inside the life and mind of its author: Michelle McNamara. We're given intimate details about the crimes committed by GSK (whom we now know is Joseph DeAngelo) and are walked chronologically through the escalation and the atrocities he reaped upon the Sacramento area over a decade-long crime-spree.

Spliced in between these horrendous retellings we're given insight into McNamara. Who she is as a person, where her obsessive nature comes from, how it was ultimately refined to true-crime. Her passion for the work she does is evident throughout the entirety of this read and it's impossible not to be swept up into the sheer magnitude of research and dedication she put into this masterpiece.

“The victims recede from view. Their rhythm is off, their confidence drained. They’re laden with phobias and made tentative by memory. Divorce and drugs beset them. Statutes of limitations expire. Evidence kits are tossed for lack of room. What happened to them is buried, bright and unmoving, a coin at the bottom of a pool. They do their best to carry on.”

What really struck me here was the accessibility of McNamara's voice. When you're dealing in such raw, gruesome and heart-rending facts it's easy to get lost in the sensationalism of it all. So much of true-crime is this in-your-face, all about ratings, how many jaws can we get to drop type of business that the humanity of those affected is lost. McNamara did not falter in this regard even once. She dealt in pure facts and maintained a clear and deep respect for the victims, the police officers, and the communities this criminal terrorized.

"I don’t care if I’m the one who captures him. I just want bracelets on his wrists and a cell door slamming behind him.”

It is certainly very interesting having read this book after DeAngelo has now been caught and knowing how easy it would've been for him to just slip through the cracks and live the rest of his life a free man. I think it shows who McNamara was as a person that despite her deep obsession with this case she simply wanted him caught. She didn't need fame or fortune or to be involved -in the end, she just wanted justice. It leaves a sad aura around me knowing that she will not get to see the praise and reception she has received and that we've lost such a truly talented voice in investigative journalism.

I completed this as a Traveling Friends read and it is incredible how many people have their own stories of seemingly normal people we later find out have committed heinous crimes. This makes a fantastic buddy read as there are endless opportunities to discuss. However, if I can give future readers one piece of advice: don't read this alone, at night or you'll be gone in the dark too.

Cheers to Michelle McNamara and a true work of art.
Profile Image for Larry H.
2,484 reviews29.4k followers
April 8, 2018
Since its publication earlier this year, some have asked whether Michelle McNamara's utterly engrossing true crime book, I'll Be Gone in the Dark , would be as popular if McNamara, the wife of comedian and actor Patton Oswalt, hadn't died suddenly while writing the book in 2016. While that tragedy certainly raised the book's profile, the fact is, this is a tremendously well-written and compelling book, worthy of every bit of acclaim it's gotten. It's just sad McNamara isn't around to appreciate the response to her years of hard work.

"Violent men unknown to me have occupied my mind all my adult life—long before 2007, when I first learned of the offender I would eventually dub the Golden State Killer. The part of the brain reserved for sports statistics or dessert recipes or Shakespeare quotes is, for me, a gallery of harrowing aftermaths: a boy's BMX bike, its wheels still spinning, abandoned in a ditch along a country road; a tuft of microscopic green fibers collected from the small of a dead girl's back. To say I'd like to stop dwelling is beside the point."

Unsolved crimes—particularly murders—were an obsession of McNamara's from when she was 14 years old. Growing up the youngest of six children in Oak Park, Illinois, in the mid-1980s, a young woman from her neighborhood was murdered one night while jogging. Even though some boys she knew might very well have seen the murderer shortly after he committed his crime, the murder was never solved, and from that act of senseless violence, a fascination which turned into an obsession and a career was borne.

"I was a hoarder of ominous and puzzling details. I developed a Pavlovian response to the word 'mystery.' My library record was a bibliography of the macabre and true. When I meet people and hear where they're from I orient them in my mind by the nearest unsolved crime."

McNamara created the true crime website TrueCrimeDiary.com, where she enjoyed rehashing unsolved cases with the police and others originally involved in them, as well as other armchair detectives. But nothing gripped her like the havoc wreaked by the man she dubbed the "Golden State Killer," a man who terrorized Northern California for more than 10 years in the 1970s and 1980s, committing 50 sexual assaults and 10 brutal murders, before disappearing without ever being caught.

In I'll Be Gone in the Dark , McNamara laid out the grisly, disturbing trail this killer and rapist left behind. Buoyed by painstaking research, she provides stories about his victims and those who got away lucky, the dogged police officers and detectives tasked with hunting down this criminal mastermind. It's fascinating but frustrating, in that without the technology used today in solving crimes, without the kind of knowledge about serial killers and serial criminals that exists today, this criminal was able to escape.

While that in and of itself makes for an interesting read, McNamara wasn't afraid to talk about herself as well, and how this obsession affected her life. Reading this book brought you closer to the mind of a fascinating woman, one who will never be able to tell her own story in greater detail, nor will she be able to see how people reacted to her book. She was a great writer, and her research and interpretation was top-notch. There was a reason that police detectives were willing to talk with her and rehash the crimes they couldn't solve—because they knew she got them.

In his blurb for the book, Stephen King said it best: "What readers need to know—what makes this book so special—is that it deals with two obsessions, one light and one dark. The Golden State Killer is the dark half; Michelle McNamara is the light half. It’s a journey into two minds, one sick and disordered, the other intelligent and determined. I loved this book."


See all of my reviews at itseithersadnessoreuphoria.blogspot.com, or check out my list of the best books I read in 2017 at https://itseithersadnessoreuphoria.blogspot.com/2018/01/the-best-books-i-read-in-2017.html.
Profile Image for Erin .
1,233 reviews1,145 followers
April 30, 2018
UPDATE: An arrest has been made, 72 year old Joseph James DeAngelo a former police officer.

This book is easily one of the best True Crimes books I have ever read.

The first time I remember hearing about Michelle McNamara was on an episode of 48 Hours and the only reason I watched that episode was because I recognized her husband Patton Oswalt. His first name is my last name and for that reason I've always liked him. The 48 Hours episode was about his wife Michelle and her dogged pursuit of a prolific serial rapist/killer which she named The Golden State Killer. I had never heard of this killer but I was instantly intrigued. Unfortunately by time the episode aired Michelle had tragically passed away but what she left behind may one day lead to the capture of one of the most vile serial killers in history.

I'll Be Gone In The Dark is part True Crime, part memoir and in my very very humble opinion it is a masterpiece. Michelle spent nearly a decade intricately researching and playing amateur detective trying to weave together 40 years of evidence in an herculean effort to discover the true identity of The Golden State killer. A killer who's crimes weren't even connected until the early 2000's. His were originally thought to be separate crimes. From 1976-1979 he was in parts of California known as The East Area Rapist. From 1974-1975 in parts of California he was known as The Ransaker, from 1979-1986 he was The Original Night Stalker. It took DNA to connect all the cases back to one offender. This book ends with a cliffhanger, we don't know who the killer is but we are much much closer. As I read this I wondered if the killer himself had read this book.

After I finished I'll Be Gone In The Dark I felt sad that this wonderful woman isn't here to reap her rightful praise for this amazing piece work. I couldn't help but feel GSK had taken Michelle as his latest victim. I hope he's caught not just because of the vile crimes he's committed but as tribute to the life of Michelle McNamara.

A Must Read!

2018 Around The Year In 52 Books: A book rated 5 Stars by at least 1 friend.
2018 Popsugar Reading Challenge: True Crime.
Profile Image for Diane S ☔.
4,738 reviews14.1k followers
August 15, 2018
4.5 captivating and incredibly creepy. One would have had to have been in a news blackout, at least here in the states, to have not heard about the long overdue capture of the rapist and murderer, called the Golden State killer. This book is do well researched, an in-depth expose of all the incidents, the evidence collected and the many areas in California where this killer roamed. It was presented in a clear, concise and very interesting way. Yes, there is repetition, but it would be hard not eliminate that, as Michelle talks to many different law enforcement personnel as well as others, going over what she found, what they found, and what do far had been concluded. That for so long he was able to go without capture, it both unbelievable but yet understandable. There were no data base sharing information, nor was there dna profiling back then.

I chose to listen to this and the narrator was outstanding. In fact I believe listening to this increased the creep factor quite a bit. You see, the rapist/killer whispered to his victims and the narrators whispering and thd rords spoken were chilling. Actually went to bed with bear spray on my nightstand. Years ago I was a true crime fanatic, read Helter skelter, all of Ann Rules many crime exposes, but this is the first one I have read for s long time. It was part of a sisters read and it helped, talking to oyhers, able to share our thoughts.

It is terrible that after sll her work, Michelle died, way to young, before she saw this book published, nor the man who had been here obsession so long captured. Her husband narrates the end of the sufio, talking abbout his wife, and her work.
Profile Image for emma.
1,823 reviews48.7k followers
February 4, 2021
There is nothing more I would like to do then leave my pre-review of this as a full review, but my review has caused much confusion, so I cannot.

Here is a longer, hopefully less discombobulating version:
1) This is a gripping and well-written account of a then-unsolved serial killer case, and one brilliant woman's fixation with it.
2) This book is very sad to me, for two reasons:
a) Michelle McNamara died suddenly in her sleep, very young, and only months before the case she dedicated her life to would be solved. Many people yelled at me in the comments to tag this as a spoiler, which I won't do, because that's dumb. This is nonfiction. The author is not a character who dies. It's addressed in the synopsis, in the marketing, and in real life everywhere because it really truly happened.
The ending of this book, which addresses her untimely passing, is beautiful and so sad.
b) This was a fairly perfect true crime read for me until one point, toward the end, when McNamara bemoans the refusal of DNA testing companies to work with police departments. This is illegal, an infringement on privacy, and a gross thing to even consider. So that sucked. (Hopefully there is no confusion on what my stance on this idea is, but to clear things up if there is: NO. NONONONONONO. NO. DO NOT. NEVER. EVER. NO.)

That's about it.

Bottom line: We have all been deprived of a brilliant career from a brilliant woman, and this book is a sad and excellent reminder of that.


reasons this book made me very sad:
1) i decided i love michelle mcnamara just in time for the very sad ending of the book, where her very sad and untimely passing is addressed (note: this is not a spoiler, it's an actual thing that happened in real life);
2) and i thought this was a fairly perfect true crime story until suddenly, at the end, the as-of-right-now reticence of DNA companies to illegally cooperate with police was treated as a bad thing. uh...what?

but full review to come / 4 stars anyway

tbr review

my ideal story will always be a true crime mystery that has gone unsolved for decades and is neatly tied up for good at the end.

i am very excited.
Profile Image for Taylor.
29 reviews5 followers
March 8, 2018
This was my most highly anticipated book of 2018, and the first book I ever preordered. I didn't want to run the risk of a waiting list at my local library, and knew I would want to read it the second it was available. I'll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman's Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer by Michelle McNamara arrived on my doorstep February 27. Yesterday, March 8, I finally finished it. At 328 pages and in my favorite genre of true crime, I didn't initially suspect it would take me over a week to finish it, but...

If you are reading this, you probably know the premise. The Golden State Killer, more commonly known as the East Area Rapist (EAR) or Original Night Stalker (ONS), or as EAR-ONS (I know, it's a mouthful), raped 50 people and murdered an additional 12 others in the 70s and 80s. McNamara was halfway through an exhaustive investigation of his crimes when she died, leaving her book unfinished. Thanks to her team of fellow investigators and editors, as well as her husband, her remaining notes were pieced together to finish and publish the book.

McNamara's utter and complete devotion to her subject shines strongly throughout the book. The most interesting segments are personal anecdotes about her work and how she got investigators to open up to her. She was a talented writer and an exhaustive investigator; that much is clear. Unfortunately, McNamara's gifted writing is not enough to carry a book she did not end up completing herself. The sections that were pieced together by her editors from her other published works and from her notes are woefully clunky and disjointed compared to the text McNamara wrote herself.

Another major issue I have with the book is the way the timeline of events is organized. The book starts with a few murders in the middle of the EAR-ONS' crime spree, then jumps to Hollywood in the late aughts, then back to the beginning of the EAR-ONS crime spree, then to the mid-90s investigations, then...you get the point. It's difficult--no, impossible--to piece together a linear narrative of the EAR-ONS' crimes, which to me is crucial for understanding how the investigation unfolded. I would be curious to know if this disjointed timeline, was the explicit choice of McNamara or a decision made after she died. It seems to be trying to complement the weaving in of personal anecdotes but in execution is just confusing.

Part of this confusion is not McNamara's fault; with crimes spanning decades and dozens of victims and affected family members, and multiple investigations also spanning decades and many iterations of investigators, it's difficult to keep the facts straight. However, we are not even given every fact of the case. Although the EAR-ONS completed over 60 crimes, only a few are actually profiled in the book. This sparse exploration of individual instances of the EAR-ONS crimes, coupled with a timeline that jumps back and forth, makes it very difficult to follow along with the book's overall narrative structure. I was never able "get into" the narrative and had to work diligently to follow along. Unfortunately, I came away with little understanding of the case and its investigation, which is what made me want to pick up the book in the first place.

My final issue with this book is that it presents no new information about the case, but in the media frenzy surrounding it is presented as if it does. I won't count my expectations and prior knowledge of the case against this book, but I will say it is difficult to ignore the hype surrounding it. (Incidentally, if you are still interested in this case and want more information, the podcast Casefile has an excellent five-part series on the EAR-ONS)

I wavered between a three-star and two-star review for this book. I initially had it as a three-star, but if I'm being honest with myself it's because I wanted to like it SO MUCH. I appreciate the effort McNamara put into her investigation, and the dedication her editors and husband must have had to see it published. I also love McNamara's writing style and wish I could read more by her. However, at the end of the day, this book is a confusing take on a prolific serial killer whose level of detail doesn't quite do justice to McNamara's investigation skills.
Profile Image for Simone James.
Author 11 books12.3k followers
November 28, 2022
So good. So scary. So tragic. So detailed. So chilling. So sad. SO GOOD.
Reread: November 2022
Profile Image for Megan Abbott.
Author 69 books5,555 followers
November 25, 2017
I've been waiting for this book for a long time, having been a fan of McNamara's True Crime Diary blog (http://www.truecrimediary.com). While she hadn't finished it before her death, it is a remarkable book--both in terms of its investigative power and its superb, precise prose (and an excellent intro by Gillian Flynn and a poignant afterword by Patton Oswalt). But what makes it so special is how it becomes this living testament to the drive, strength and power of its author, a portrait of how her ample mind operated, and how her heart interpreted. And for all of us who loved true crime from a similarly young age and for whom the fascination has never left, it feels like a lovesong from a fellow pilgrim.

Don't miss it.
Profile Image for Malia.
Author 6 books549 followers
January 24, 2019
I was very wary of reading this book, because it just sounded so, so creepy and when I bought it, the killer had not yet been caught. Yet when he was recently found, after so many years, I felt compelled to know the background and read the book. It is a tragic story, made all the more so because its passionate, persistent author did not live to see this man's arrest, something she so badly wished for. This story is so disturbing, I could not get it out of my head and I could definitely not read it at night. All the same, I found it difficult to put down. The style of writing is so compelling, not dry like much non-fiction seems to me. McNamara's voice is unique, and she infected my with her deep interest and devotion to solving the case. I also liked how she gave the victims their own story and a considerable amount of attention, highlighting who they were before they were assaulted or killed by this evil man. This was a rough intro to true crime fiction for me, but worth the read. The writing is excellent and the fact that the killer has actually been caught feels like a stunning ending to this horrible story. It will take some time for me to stop thinking about this book and its author, and I think that is probably how it should be. Definitely recommended, but proceed with caution. This book will keep you awake at night.

Find more reviews and bookish fun at http://www.princessandpen.com
Profile Image for Debra .
2,296 reviews35k followers
August 15, 2018
“What readers need to know—what makes this book so special—is that it deals with two obsessions, one light and one dark. The Golden State Killer is the dark half; Michelle McNamara’s is the light half. It’s a journey into two minds, one sick and disordered, the other intelligent and determined. I loved this book.” -Stephen King

Had Michelle McNamara lived, I think she would have been proud of how well this book has been received, but I think she would have been even more moved to see that the man, Joseph James DeAngelo, she named "The Golden State killer" has been arrested and being charged for his heinous crimes. I imagine her sitting there in the court room, looking him straight in the eye, knowing justice will be served and the killer she was obsessed with finding had been caught.

Michelle McNamara was a true crime journalist who started the website TrueCrimeDiary.com. She was determined to find "The Golden State Killer". A man who committed fifty sexual assaults in Northern California before he moved south where he murdered ten people. Michelle interviewed various detectives working diligently to solve the crimes, she read police reports, interviewed victims and their family members, she devoted countless hours to research, traveling to various locations, collecting box after box of reports. She educated herself on various forensic devices used to track and identify killers.

Through her writing, she showed not only her humanity but the humanity of the victims and the police officers investigating the cases. She shared bits and pieces of herself with the reader. She shared what drove her desire to hunt this killer, she showed us glimpses into her private life and her relationships with those close to her. She poured her heart and soul into her research. She was intelligent, determined, and never gave us her quest for the truth. Her devotion is admirable and earned her the respect of the men and women in law enforcement who were also trying to capture this killer.

"Her prose jumps off the page and sits down next to you..." This book was completed after her death and various sections of the book inform the reader of what chapters were finished using Michelle's notes. This true crime book is nothing short of a masterpiece. There is a lot of information in this book. There are also maps and pictures of some of the victims. This is a very comprehensive book but also one that is very readable.

Highly recommend!

Read more of my reviews at www.openbookpost.com
Profile Image for Matt.
919 reviews28.3k followers
May 4, 2020
“One day soon, you’ll hear a car pull up to your curb, an engine cut out. You’ll hear footsteps coming up your front walk. Like they did for Edward Wayne Edwards, twenty-nine years after he killed Timothy Hack and Kelly Drew, in Sullivan, Wisconsin. Like they did for Kenneth Lee Hicks, thirty years after he killed Lori Billingsley, in Aloha, Oregon.

The doorbell rings.

No side gates are left open. You’re long past leaping over a fence. Take one of your hyper, gulping breaths. Clench your teeth. Inch timidly toward the insistent bell.

This is how it ends for you.

“You’ll be silent forever, and I’ll be gone in the dark,” you threatened a victim once.

Open the door. Show us your face.

Walk into the light.”

- Michelle McNamara, I’ll Be Gone in the Dark

The story behind this story is both sad and fascinating.

Michelle McNamara was a renowned true crime writer who ran a popular blog dedicated to cold cases. One of her main targets was a man she dubbed the Golden State Killer, a serial rapist who dabbled in murder. His tally includes at least ten deaths, and more than fifty sexual assaults. She was in the process of writing a book on the GSK, whose crimes remained unsolved, when she died quite suddenly in 2016. The unfinished manuscript was published posthumously as I’ll Be Gone in the Dark in February 2018, some two years after McNamara’s death.

It was an incomplete book about an incomplete investigation. But there was one more twist in store: about two months after publication, they caught the guy.

With a back-story like that, it’s hard to judge I’ll Be Gone in the Dark. This is a book, after all, that lacks two endings: one written, the other substantive. This is the skeleton of a masterpiece, and had it been finished, might have become a classic. As it is, it is still very good, and demonstrates, as Capote did with In Cold Blood, that the true crime genre does not have to limit itself to the traditional murder mystery format.

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark is not structured chronologically. Certainly, it is not written as a prosecutor’s brief, systematically tracking the killer, marshaling evidence, and zeroing in on a suspect. Instead, McNamara (and I’m assuming this is what she intended) moves back and forth in time. Parts of this are biographical, discussing her relationship with her mother, and examining her own obsession with crimes and criminals. Parts of this are historical, describing the Golden State Killer’s crimes in chilling fashion. And part of this is about the thrill of the chase, and the efforts McNamara undertook to try to find the man who terrorized swaths of California in the 70s and 80s.

McNamara is an incredibly powerful writer. She takes care with her prose. As you can see from the opening quote, she knows how to grab you by the lapels and demand your attention. Her reconstructions of the GSK’s numerous break-ins are very good; she describes them in powerful and precise detail that never feels prurient. She is impressively incisive and observant, not just about the unidentified killer, but about the dogged detectives she meets along her journey. Her descriptions of where the crimes took place, and the way she evokes the various targeted neighborhoods, is excellent. And she can turn a phrase or two, describing things in a lively way:

Most violent criminals smash through life like human sledgehammers. They have fists for hands and can’t plan beyond their sightlines. They’re caught easily. They talk too much. They return to the scene of the crime, as conspicuous as tin cans on a bumper. But every so often a blue moon surfaces. A snow leopard slinks by.

I appreciated the book’s structure, especially since McNamara’s literary skill makes even the potentially-banal interesting. However, in moving back and forth as she does, the reader is required to pay close attention in order not to get lost. This issue is compounded by the fact that the Golden State Killer had as many names as a character in a Russian novel (East Area Rapist, East Area Rapist-Original Nightstalker, the Ransacker, etc.), and the book does not refer to him in any consistent way.

I truly believe, had McNamara finished this as she planned, this might have been an all-timer, a genre transcending work. Life, however, is cruel to our plans and projects. The fact is, this was not finished, and though that is not necessarily fatal (one of my favorite books, Young Men and Fire, is also a posthumous release), the downsides are evident. There are certain chapters cobbled together from her previous writings, some of them already published. Thus, if you’ve read McNamara before, you might come across stuff that seems awfully familiar. And of course, the end is quite abrupt, a line that ends midsentence.

Some of the people that McNamara worked with do their best to provide an epilogue. All this really does, however, is demonstrate once again how good McNamara wrote. More than that, this end-section, written by Paul Haynes and Billy Jensen, advances some extremely troubling views vis-à-vis the trashing of civil liberties in pursuit of a single criminal suspect. I like to think that McNamara would have thought a little deeper about this subject.

(Just a brief aside: obsessives often lose perspective. McNamara was smart enough to recognize this within herself. Accordingly, it is worth noting, because this book does not, that while this is true crime, it is not typical crime. The most pressing criminal justice issues facing our society do not come from the lone, clever, Hollywood-esque serial killer with the dark quips and the furiously studied modus operandi. Rather, it comes from concentrated poverty, depressed mobility, and communities awash in guns and drugs. It comes from overcrowded prisons, unfair sentencing laws, and neighborhoods that do not trust law enforcement. So, while I definitely recommend I’ll Be Gone in the Dark, it is also worth making time for a book like Ghettoside or The Corner).

By this point, most people know that a suspect has been arrested for these crimes. Unfortunately, this happened well after McNamara passed away, meaning that I’ll Be Gone in the Dark does not cover this ultimate surprise ending.

That does not matter. In short: no killer, no problem. The best true crime understands that while the pursuit of justice motivates the hunt, it will not make things whole. Catching the alleged Golden State Killer (a 72 year-old man) may be cathartic, but it does not sew up the tears in heaven. It will not bring back the dead, un-traumatize the traumatized, or even prevent another crime. The search itself, though, is revealing about human nature. It speaks to a driving need to understand the incomprehensible, and to seek a cosmic balance in a universe that does not care.
March 9, 2022
5 frightening and fascinating true crime stars!

Jaw dropping. Unsettling. Disturbing. Haunting. Devastating. These are just a few more of the words I would use to describe this unforgettable book and serial killer case.

Never have I been so completely terrified yet addicted to a book! True crime is a genre I find myself becoming more and more interested in. This book was written so extremely well! It didn’t feel bogged down by facts and dates. I was quite literally hanging on every single word of this horrific story.

The author, Michelle McNamara, was a true crime researcher and journalist whose career largely focused on hunting down the Golden State Killer. McNamara gave the “Golden State Killer” this name after piecing together that he was the same perpetrator of several rape and murder cases that weren’t originally linked. She spent years dedicated to tracking this serial rapist and killer down through extensive online research, interviews and revisiting crime scenes. She became a well known and respected resource for police detectives who were haunted by this case for decades. The Golden State Killer was responsible for 50 rapes and 10 murders in the 1970’s and 1980’s. Sadly, Michelle McNamara passed away before this book was published and before the world discovered the real name behind this masked man.

The writing was excellent! I was completely consumed. I had no knowledge of this sickening serial killer and found myself in a constant state of shock while discovering all that he got away with FOR DECADES before being caught. I was equally terrified and fascinated by the words I was reading. The book kept me on edge from start to finish.

I found myself in awe of McNamara when I began to truly understand her dedication and determination in solving this decades old cold case. The constant ups and downs she faced throughout her meticulous research was a roller coaster of emotions for her. Just when she thought she was on the right path, a road block would send her right back to the start, and yet she never gave up.

It goes without saying that this is an extremely tough read. There are countless gruesome and highly uncomfortable details presented but all are necessary in order to present all the facts to the reader.

Overall, this was a compulsively readable, well written account of one of history’s worst villains. Though I may be sleeping with my light on for a while longer, I’ll definitely be adding this to my 2022 Favourites shelf!

Thank you to my lovely local library for the loan!
Profile Image for Elyse Walters.
4,010 reviews35 followers
August 31, 2018
Reviews of this book were terrific from the get go - once available for readers....
yet, my husband said....”don’t do it”. “Why do you need to read a book about a killer/serial rapist who committed crimes in the area where you lived as a young
single female in the 70’s and 80’?” “Wasn’t it frightening enough - for real- back then? Oh yes, it was! So.... I stayed away from this book - until a friend gave me the hardcopy back in May of this year. I still didn’t read it right away as you can see....given it’s now the last day of August.

The Audiobook- read by Gabra Zackmara, being ‘readily’ available- with a touch of one finger was too tempting. No waitlist. I downloaded it. The waitlist must have come & gone by now. I’m guessing there was a long waitlist in the beginning. But my library ordered 20 copies - anticipating the popularity.

“Cherry”, by Nico Walker, might be the new ‘it’ popular book — ( which I haven’t read), leaving the doorway open for old news of “I’ll Be Gone in the Dark”.

Not sure I have much more to add to the already thousands of reviews before me.
The writing WAS outstanding - as readers have said - and learning about the author - Michelle McNamara’s and her family were things I didn’t know anything about - other than she died in her sleep before finishing this book.

I LIKED THE AUDIOBOOK.....( I also read parts of my physical book - chapters where I felt I wanted to re-read sections for better understanding-and see the photos) ....but it was the Audiobook that I devoted long hours of listening. The voice narrator was perfect.

The research - and years of dedication- of Michelle’s fans on her crime blog HAD to be a huge contributing factor in the arrest of Joseph DeAngelo. He’s everything but ‘Golden’.
......but Michelle McNamara was!!!
Profile Image for Johann (jobis89).
644 reviews4,265 followers
February 19, 2020
"This is how it ends for you. "You'll be silent forever, and I'll be gone in the dark," you threatened a victim once. Open the door. Show us your face. Walk into the light."

A portrait of a woman's obsession and her unflagging pursuit of the truth. I'll Be Gone in the Dark is the masterpiece that Michelle McNamara was working on when she tragically passed away in 2016. It's a chilling account of a criminal mastermind, The Golden State Killer, and the wreckage he left behind.

This was one of those surreal reading experiences that I'll never forget. I had been dying to get to this one, I needed a true crime fix, and so I decided on to start it on the Saturday. I was about halfway through when I woke up to the news on the following Wednesday that they had captured the suspected Golden State Killer. Cue obsessive scrolling through twitter all day and waiting impatiently for the news conference that evening. Prior to his capture, I felt intense disgust, rage and frustration that this man was still potentially walking the streets (Michelle was convinced he wasn't in jail or dead). As I read through the timeline of his crimes and ways in which he tortured and terrified his victims, I had a few restless nights.

Coming into contact with someone like him is my worst nightmare. Home is where you're supposed to feel safe. He often tracked and watched his victims prior to attacking, working out their schedules and how he could discretely get inside the house to carry out his intention of rape and/or murder. You'd be woken up by a flashlight shining in your face in the middle of the night and subsequently tied up so that he could do what he wanted with you. What made it even more terrifying for me was that he wasn't put off by the presence of a male partner. He would just force the female to tie her partner up before dealing with the female himself. He would often balance plates or similar items on the partner's back so that he would hear if the husband dared move while he raped his wife. So, yeah, I guess I was pretty disturbed.

To then hear that this personification of evil had potentially been identified and arrested completely changed the reading experience for me. I mean, I was still appalled at what I was reading, but at least I could feel some happiness in that he would be brought to justice for what he done to so many people and their families. But I am honestly tired of talking about this serial rapist and murderer. The real takeaway from this book is the character of Michelle McNamara. Her determination, her courage, her spirit, her tenacity, her humanity - I could list all of her admirable traits until I am blue in the face. She brought true crime writing to another level and I am truly devastated that we will never get another true crime novel from her, she really would have changed the entire game.

I know the investigative team have yet to attribute any of the credit of his identification and capture to McNamara's work, but if you've read the book and if you have any semblance of the spotlight that she focused on this lesser-known serial rapist/murderer, then you know that is bullshit. She kept the story alive and brought an urgency to solving the case. Michelle knew the answer lay within those online genetic profiles on genealogical sites and that is ultimately how he was identified.

I loved this book, it was chilling and terrifying, but there was a light within it, and that light was Michelle. Even if you're a not a true crime fan, I would highly recommend this book. It's heartbreaking, yet inspiring and I only wish Michelle had been here to see the bastard finally go down.
Profile Image for Lucy.
415 reviews612 followers
February 14, 2019
"You'll be silent forever, and I'll be gone in the dark."

In this book McNamara gives an unflinching account of the Golden State Killer, the mysterious boogeyman who burgled, raped and murdered his way through California.
This book was divided into three parts; Book 1, details of the crimes and the victims: Book 2, details of the investigators (from forensic scientists, detectives, criminologists and witnesses) and the investigation: Book 3, covers further profiling such as geographic (this part was written by McNamara's researchers after she had died). This book also included an amazing introduction by Gillian Flynn and such a thoughtful and heartfelt afterword by Patten Oswald, Michelle McNamara's husband.

This true crime book was fantastic! Probably one of the best I have ever read, and one I've been recommending to everyone. This book is informational without being boring. McNamara does a brilliant job at humanising the case and respecting both the victims, their families and the towns shook by terror. She gives names of the police and victims, and describes and paints their personality onto paper so that you can imagine their ordeal and the frightening encounters they have had to endure.

Another good thing about the book is that this is entirely comprehensive- especially to a lay person. McNamara does a great job at explaining the technological aspects of the case and DNA profiling, without going into too much scientific detail, but provides you with the basics of how it works. She shows how this helped the case progress, linking crimes to so many different areas over California. One of the chapters that had me completely gripped was called "The One", this explored how there were certain suspects that linked up to so many of the crimes... but the DNA didn't match, and McNamara details the disappointment from investigators after pouring their energy into catching this offender.
It was also helpful how McNamara incorporated the map of California in the first few pages, with notes on the side following most of the crimes. As someone who does not know much about the geography of California, this really helped me form an understanding of the geographical timeline of the rapes and murders and how they all linked up.

As someone who didn't know anything about these crimes, it was fascinating to learn more about the investigation into this mysterious, awful murderer. I found this book completely fascinating, and as someone who has read a lot of true crime and studied forensic psychology, I really enjoyed it!

I think McNamara does a brilliant job at describing her own obsession with the case and the lengths that people go to when researching, whether this be officer's on the case officially or people at home interested in the case. I liked learning about geographical profiling and learning of all the different theories purported by researcher's and investigator's alike (for example, the killer using a plane).

While I loved this book, I really wish that Michelle McNamara was alive today to see how greatly received her work has been and how it has sparked a new generation of investigators into crime. I would've loved to have seen her witness the case unfold and the catching of the killer.
I agree with Gillian Flynn in that I think Michelle McNamara would've been a great person to know and be friends with, as I myself have delved into the obsession of understanding a criminal's mind, and it would've been great to discuss and hear more from her.

This book was completely engrossing and intriguing and really got the heart pumping. I was addicted to learning about the Golden State Killer and the surrounding investigation.
McNamara has a special ability in her writing by drawing you into the investigation and ensnares you, so that you too become a detective yourself, formulating your own theories and putting pieces of the puzzle together. I feel like I need to read this again in the future just to absorb and uncover more details!
Displaying 1 - 30 of 18,793 reviews

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.