Trigger Warning: This novel and review discuss the following: murder, rape, burglary, death, crime, and cold cases.
Goodreads Rating: 4 Stars
On a beautiful sunny weekend, I roadtripped to my friend’s place in North Carolina. Knowing that I would be completely scared by this novel but still too intrigued to ignore it, I let it play over my car radio system- in the daylight hours.
McNamara, a true crime writer and journalist, reveals the stunning amount of research she’s done on the Golden State Killer. The title she coined for the man also known as the East Area Rapist, the Original Night Stalker, and the Visalia Ransacker, after DNA confirmed they were the same suspect, stuck. After gaining attention for her articles in Los Angeles Magazine, Harper Collins reached out to her to put together this book, in which she included interviews, personal notes, compilations of her articles, and parts from her blog, TrueCrimeDiary.
I didn’t know anything about the Golden State Killer except for the buzz I heard over this book, so let me share a little about what I learned. The Golden State Killer (GSK) committed multiple crime sprees from 1974 to 1986, including at least 13 murders, over 50 rapes, and 100-plus burglaries. At the time, DNA testing wasn’t advanced, so the case was a significant factor that lead to the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) database development, a compilation of DNA samples from every accused and convicted felon. After over 40 years, technology finally linked the DNA evidence between the Vidalia Ransaker, who murdered at least one and burglarized over 100 homes in Visalia, CA; the East Area Rapist, who terrorized, attacked, and raped over 50 couples in the east neighborhoods of Sacramento, CA; and the Original Night Stalker, who murdered two single women and four couples in southern California near Santa Barbara. With her background in investigative journalism, McNamara would spend countless hours researching these crimes as she suffered from insomnia. She would collaborate with crime investigators and serial fans in the hopes of compiling enough evidenciary support to name a suspect.
This book is SO GOOD in the creepiest, twistiest way possible. McNamara poured her soul into finding information that would identify this monster that tormented so many, in the hopes of him getting a pair of silver bracelets slapped on his wrist and put behind bars. The amount of research McNamara did is mind boggling, technical, and disturbing, though fascinating. I found myself hanging on the words she wrote as Gabra Zackman narrated the audiobook. There is so much conviction in her voice, and I’m sure McNamara would be proud, because there is so much conviction in McNamara’s writing. I also enjoyed the additional introduction by Gillian Flynn- who I haven’t read because just her book summaries give me nightmares- and the prologue by Patton Oswalt, McNamara’s widower, who read a letter penned directly to the Golden State Killer with the author’s questions bluntly stated, as well as a few fond sentiments to his wife that broke my heart.
Fans of true crime reads will certainly enjoy I’ll Be Gone In The Dark, and I’d recommend it to those who think it will be interesting in a nonfiction standpoint but aren’t fans of crime novels. I’m a bit of a chicken when it comes to crime- I have a very active imagination and am awfully good at dreaming crazy stuff when I sleep- so I usually stay away from scary writing. However, McNamara (and those who helped complete her novel after her untimely death) have created a strong, gripping narrative about one of the most terrorizing and publicized criminal cold cases. As harrowing as it is to think of the torture this man put on California residents (as well as the fear he added to this world), this novel can’t help but capture the attention of it’s readers.
TL/DR: Michelle McNamara is a true crime writer and enthusiast who compiled her research on the Golden State Killer, creating the nonfiction novel titled I’ll Be Gone In The Dark.
Read it? YES- or honestly, listen to the audiobook!
Recommend it? Yes! It’s very detailed and interesting, more of a documentary than a gory reveling of the killer’s crimes.
Buy it? Yes!!
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