I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara | Book Review

July 18th – 20th

I’m picky. I’m especially picky when it comes to non-fiction. Looking at my read books from this past year, I’m happy with how much non-fiction I’ve read. It’s definitely more than in the past. I’ve read astronomy and a lot of memoirs this year, but one thing I’ve been hesitant to dive into is true crime.

I love true crime. Growing up, I watched CSI all the time. I wanted to be a forensic anthropologist when I grew up. That changed as time went on, but I did also minor in anthropology in college. I find true crime especially fascinating. The first season of the podcast Serial hooked me in deeply, as did the HBO series The Jinx. But like I said, I’m picky. I like true crime that presents facts and lets the audience come to their own conclusion. I don’t like agendas.

This book hit every note for me, and is my second five-star book of the year.

Michelle McNamara’s writing is deliberate. She has the ability to weave a narrative based off of case files which happened twenty years before I was born and hook me in. She rekindled the piece of me that wanted to solve mysteries growing up.

The Golden State Killer is McNamara’s name for the East Area Rapist or Original Night Stalker, a man who went on a full crime spree in the late 70’s in the Sacramento area. The crime details are gruesome and horrific, and McNamara doesn’t gloss over this fact. I listened to the audiobook, and there were times driving home late at night where I found myself gripping the steering wheel a bit too tightly, or stepping too far down on the gas pedal, completely engrossed in the narrative.

The book also discusses McNamara herself, who died in 2016. It goes into her obsession, sometimes a bit too much, as well as her past and her reasons for becoming so invested in this case. The book was completed by those who shared a fixation on this case with her, and published earlier this year. A few months after the book was published, the Golden State Killer was caught and convicted.

This is the type of true crime that I think we need more of. We need the passion projects, the stories that grip people and that they need to find a solution for, even if there is no solution to be found. (See the first season of Serial as an example of this.) We need less “did he or didn’t he” and more “here’s what happened.”

I would love to find more books like this, and I’m sure that I will.


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