In I'll Be Gone in the Dark, Michelle McNamara documents her obsessive search for an elusive figure and violent predator who committed fifty sexual assaults in Northern California before moving south, where he perpetrated ten sadistic murders, in a span of ten years. Dubbed the "Golden State Killer" by Michelle, he abruptly disappeared, eluding capture by multiple police forces and some of the best detectives in the area for decades. I'll Be Gone in the Dark provides a detailed look into one of the most horrific crime sprees in American history and the chilling account of the criminal mastermind behind it all. Though I'll Be Gone in the Dark was published after Michelle's sudden death, it helped to find one of the most elusive criminals in American history. The details of the crimes committed by the Golden State Killer are best left to be read in the book itself, therefore, most of my review is based on my reaction to the book, as well as my experience reading the book.
Simply put, this book is thrilling, chilling, and difficult to put down. Michelle McNamara puts together an easy timeline to follow of each crime, and the continuous search for the monster behind them. She easily intertwines the crimes, the victims, the killer, the evidence, and all those involved in finding the killer, into one fluent narrative. Due to the book being published posthumously, Part Three of the book was completed by Paul Haynes, Michelle's lead researcher, and Billy Jensen, a friend of Michelle's who is an investigative journalist. It was easy to see the difference in writing styles as Paul and Billy's writing was more an effort to summarize the final details and information Michelle was unable to complete, versus Michelle's prose throughout the whole book, which was truly intriguing and exuded her passion for the case. Paul and Billy commend Michelle's writing, stating that it "jumps off the page and sits down next to you", which they admit cannot be recreated to finalize the book. Paul and Billy also stated that her writing found the perfect balance between the extremes of the genre, evoking key elements of the horror yet evading overindulgence in the gruesome nature of the crimes.
Michelle offers empathy and compassion towards the victims and their families by offering insight into the horrors of the crimes, but using discretion in her portrayal. Her endless hours spent researching, investigating, and creating I'll Be Gone in the Dark and her personal blog The True Crime Diaries, are pure examples of her commitment to exposing the truth and potentially bringing forth the suspect. This book is an honest and passionate compilation of her investment in the case and to find the truth. The amount of mental, emotional, and physical effort and time put into Michelle's search is astonishing, and her passion and intensity easily exudes from the pages and reaches readers. The second to last page of the book offers a quote from Ken Clark, a detective deeply involved in the Golden State Killer case, saying that she [Michelle] "brought attention to one of the least known, yet most prolific serial offenders ever to operate in the United States." Her novel is an exciting and fascinating piece of work that instantly draws readers in, and will not let them go until they know everything that Michelle has to offer. It allows readers to go beyond simply becoming interested to being truly invested.
Amazingly, a few months after her book was published, a suspect in the Golden State Killer case was captured. I waited to research these details on the Golden State Killer's capture after I read the book. If readers are unfamiliar with the crimes of the Golden State Killer prior to reading I'll Be Gone in the Dark, I would suggest waiting to research the crimes and killer until after the book is finished to allow proper build up for the eventual capture. Not only did the book allow me to become invested in the case intellectually, I was emotionally impacted by the book in an eerie way. I read the book mostly while in bed, with a little reading light clamped to the book, and before going to sleep, which made reading the accounts of the horrendous crime more frightening. I found myself checking my house each day after reading a chapter of the book just to make sure nothing was awry or moved in my home. The further I read the easier it became to imagine the mass hysteria that ensued in the areas after where these crimes were actually committed. Again, this shows the impact I'll Be Gone in the Dark has on its readers. This novel, and the case itself, are scary, yet interesting, stimulating the dark depths of the human mind. It was truly an experience reading this book, and I honestly believe that fans of psychological thrillers, true crime, nonfiction, and history will find I'll Be Gone in the Dark to be a fascinating and chilling read.
Book: I'll Be Gone in the Dark
Author: Michelle McNamara
Hardcover: 352 pages
Publisher: Harper (February 27, 2018)
Purchasing Information: My copy was actually given to me as a gift by a friend, so I had to research the prices. Currently, the book is available for purchase on Amazon for $16.74; Books A Million for $18.93; and Kindle for $14.99. (Of course, if you find this book at a local shop make sure to buy and support local book shops!)