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

I'll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara
Rate this book
Clear rating

's review

really liked it

My interest in this book came directly from the supposed capture of the elusive serial killer known as the Golden State Killer. I was previously unaware of his existence or his crimes, but when police captured the man they believe to be the killer on April 25th, 2018, decades after he had committed his crimes, I became curious. It turns out Michelle McNamara, crime novelist and former wife of comedian Patton Oswalt wrote a book about her search for the Golden State Killer (a name that she coined) earlier this year. McNamara died in 2016 while writing the book, but her lead researcher finished it and released it. Now with the news that the killer was actually captured the same year the book was released, I had to get it and read it!

Gillian Flynn’s forward is a nice intro, as she forms some context for McNamara as a writer, given she was previously unknown to me. Flynn also never really met her, but the two crime writers have a great deal in common and Flynn is adept to convey that. This book’s true impact an equal result of McNamara’s voice and chilling reality. Knowing a bit about McNamara is essential, and the forward does that well. Sadly, the afterword by McNamara’s widowed husband Patton Oswalt is just crushing, but in true Oswalt form, also very funny and touching.

McNamara is the best kind of narrator in that even though she had the glamorous lifestyle of being the wife of a successful comedic actor, even though she had more access than the usual armchair-sleuth, she makes it clear that none of that mattered. This woman would have stopped at nothing to follow her leads, and while she clearly appreciated an advantage here and there, she would have been able to build this network of contacts and gather her evidence regardless of what lot she held in life. The geographic profiling she presents is fascinating, and the details she includes make it clear to me that these crimes, that took place over 10 years and were originally thought to be committed by multiple offenders, are quite clearly carried out by one person.

The book is a well organized collection of evidence that works in many ways. First, McNamara pieces together sprees of horrendous violence with great care, allowing us to play detective. Second, she instills a new level of personal fear in each reader by relaying the events leading up to each crime in such a way that it is undeniable to assume this could not happen to us. I have woken up several nights while reading this book, checking locks and ensuring alarms are set. Finally, the case she makes for the “Golden State Killer’s” evolution is chilling and disturbing.

Unfortunately, McNamara’s passing in the middle of writing this book does leave it with a sense of incompleteness. Even though her lead researcher, Paul Haynes, and an investigative journalist, Billy Jensen, finished the book for her and prepared it for release, there’s just a fragmentary sense about the way the story ties up. I wish so much that McNamara were able to follow her left over leads and of course, I wish that she could have lived to see suspect Joseph DeAngelo arrested and charged for the murders, rapes, and burglaries she describes in this book (DeAngelo’s arrest was practically 2 years to the day after McNamara’s death). Even without closure on the killer, there’s just something missing without McNamara completing her investigatory tasks and if, just possibly if, one of those pseudonyms in her notes connects to DeAngelo.

Still, this book is a gripping account of true crime. The job Haynes and Jensen do finishing things up is admirable, and it would be a shame if this book never was completed. McNamara’s discussion of how the first generation of detectives working this case were having health problems, and the second generation was nearing retirement speaks volumes for the importance of dedicated civilians like her who keep a case like this relevant and in the spotlight. This too is reflected, sadly, in Haynes and Jensen’s work on finishing McNamara’s book. Rarely is a true crime novel so much about the hunter as well as the hunted. This is one of the best aspects of I’ll Be Gone in the Dark, and the best reason to recommend it. B+

Sign into Goodreads to see if any of your friends have read I'll Be Gone in the Dark.
Sign In »

Reading Progress

April 26, 2018 – Started Reading
May 3, 2018 – Shelved
May 3, 2018 – Finished Reading

No comments have been added yet.