I'll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman's Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer by Michelle McNamara
Reviewed by: Jennifer Chretien, Reference Librarian
Rating: 4.5 stars
Michelle McNamara was a true crime writer and enthusiast behind the blog, True Crime Diary. The purpose of the blog was to discuss and revisit cold cases; the colder the better. Michelle's main focus was finding the killer she called the "Golden State Killer", who had viciously killed a young woman from her church. Michelle spent 6 years obsessively and painstakingly researching the killer, from interviewing families and law enforcement to painstakingly creating maps. Unfortunately she died before the book was finished.
I'll Be Gone in the Dark was pieced together from Michelle's meticulous notes and research that continued after her death. It is a haunting and immersive read. McNamara is so thorough in recreating 1970's and 1980's suburban California living that the horrific crimes stay with you long after you finish the book. She provides incredible detail of the crime scenes, as well as the work detectives on the case both did and failed to do. Unlike most true crime books, I'll Be Gone in the Dark provides autobiographical information about McNamara; readers learn just why this case became her obsession. For me, knowing more about Michelle, made me even more interested in the apprehension of the killer.
The book does suffer because of the untimely death of its author. Notes had to be pieced together. Research continued on by her team after her death and those findings lack the nuanced interpretation of the earlier research. The departure from the original material is noticeable but ultimately still compelling.
I'll Be Gone in the Dark has been called the modern day In Cold Blood You don't have to be a fan of the Capote book, or any true crime novel really, to appreciate this work. It is simply a brilliant piece of investigative journalism. It is the ultimate shame that McNamara died before her hard work paid off; on April 25th, 2018 the alleged Golden State Killer was arrested. While police officials dispute the effect this book had on cracking the case, I urge you to read it and judge for yourself.