Cheri Reviews I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara

Wow. The audio book just ended and I ran to my keyboard to get a review posted. I’m sort of new to true crime books. It’s not a go-to genre when I’m looking for something to read. One of my best reading buddies and I have been dabbling, though, and this is one book we both wanted to read.

Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

For more than ten years, a mysterious and violent predator committed fifty sexual assaults in Northern California before moving south, where he perpetrated ten sadistic murders. Then he disappeared, eluding capture by multiple police forces and some of the best detectives in the area.

Three decades later, Michelle McNamara, a true crime journalist who created the popular website TrueCrimeDiary.com, was determined to find the violent psychopath she called “the Golden State Killer.” Michelle pored over police reports, interviewed victims, and embedded herself in the online communities that were as obsessed with the case as she was.

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark —the masterpiece McNamara was writing at the time of her sudden death—offers an atmospheric snapshot of a moment in American history and a chilling account of a criminal mastermind and the wreckage he left behind. It is also a portrait of a woman’s obsession and her unflagging pursuit of the truth. Utterly original and compelling, it is destined to become a true crime classic—and may at last unmask the Golden State Killer.

It’s really long, right? That blurb will likely be longer than my actual review…

*Obligatory Michelle/Patton note: I was completely unaware of Michelle McNamara until her death, when I heard that Patton Oswalt’s wife had passed away. I remember thinking, “Oh, man, that’s so sad. Patton and his little girl must be devastated.” Then I read that Michelle was a writer and focused on cold cases. I decided then to read her book if it was ever published.*

Having finished the book, I can say that Michelle was an incredible talent, both in writing and researching. Her dedication to tracking down clues and suspects blew me away. And also had me contact my friend and tell her that I want us to solve cold cases now.

I won’t lie, there were some portions of the book that I found confusing because there were so many crimes and people and it was tough to keep them straight. This might be easier to read and keep track of in a physical or ebook than it was listening to the audio book. But even when I got confused or a little overwhelmed by the details, I would think about how Michelle (I feel like I know her well enough to address her by her first name) worked for years on this case and how much she had to sift though and keep organized. She’s become sort of a super hero to me.

Mostly, though, I loved her writing style and her voice. This isn’t like other true crime books I’ve read – again, I don’t have a huge background in this genre – where it reads more like a huge newspaper article. This book has the author all over it. By the end, I felt like I knew Michelle and my heart broke even more for those she left behind (also, Patton sounds like a wonderful husband.) The victims and detectives and scientists were humans – real people – and not footnotes in the search for the GSK. One thing that took me a while to realize is that she never describes anything in graphic detail. There’s no sensationalism in this book with regard to the crimes. It would have been so easy to turn this book into a gore-fest but she didn’t which makes this a great book for those who are turned off by that sort of thing.

I absolutely recommend I’ll Be Gone in the Dark.

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