I’ll Be Gone in the Dark, book review

For my June monthly motif (Crack the Case) challenge I had thought about the Sherlock Holmes Canon. I was going to read it anyway for Back to the Classics… But I had been reading a lot about I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer, by Michelle McNamara, and I had other challenges involving True Crime, so I decided to keep the SHC just for my Back to the Classics prompt, and read this one for the Monthly Motif Challenge.

This was my first ever True Crime book, and I decided to give it a try on Audible, because I read that the performance was amazing. And it definitely was. I was worried that I would get lost, but Michelle McNamara’s writing and Gabra Zackman’s narration are sooo clear. I did take a couple notes, but nothing I wouldn’t have done even with the printed book, because there are hundreds of bits of information.

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark has a very interesting story. It was published posthumously in February of this year, 2018. The author, the obsessive woman, Michelle McNamara, died in April 2016. She was a crime investigative journalist who got interested in the Golden State Killer (a name she actually coined for the previously known EAR-East Area Rapist/ONS-Original Night Stalker) a couple years before her death. She became obsessed and after writing a piece for Los Angeles Magazine she got a book deal.

This book has the information all the agencies gathered through the years (+40!), condensed and explained in such a way that you almost feel like at the end she’ll just write the name. Of course it doesn’t happen. Actually, almost at the end of the book, her editor tells that Michelle called her once, asking exactly that: How do you end when you write about an unsolved crime? Unfortunately she never got to that point. But in a way she did.

Michelle McNamara died in her sleep, of an accidental overdose. And her husband, Patton Oswalt, reached out to her friends for them to finish her project. They used her drafts, and many many of her notes for the book and for the LA Mag article. And they ended the book with a letter Michelle wrote to the Golden State Killer. The letter itself is amazing. And after reading everything else, it just adds so much value. I’m pretty sure she intended to end I’ll Be Gone in the Dark that way, anyway.

The interesting thing is that the book was published two years after her death and they caught the Golden State Killer a couple months after the publication of the book, in April 2018. A lot of people, especially the police, say that the book didn’t help catching him, and of course her husband says it did, if not for anything else but for growing the following of one of the coldest cases in police history. I’m not sure if you can say that that’s help, especially because the GSK was never in the suspects list or in any piece of evidence. There’s one moment when the two other writers (Paul Haynes and Billy Jensen) tell the story of how they got the “Mother load”, boxes and boxes of evidence, and Michelle said that the possibility that the name of the perpetrator being in those boxes was 80%. Well, no, not as a suspect at least. But many of the characteristics and elements of the profiles they present finally became true. They were sure that the killer had inside information, because he always seemed to be a step ahead of them. In the end, he was a former cop, who got fired for shoplifting a hammer and dog repellent (!!!). His name is Joseph James DeAngelo. What Michelle got right was that he was going to be caught because of the advancements of technology. It was DNA that allowed making the match and apprehending him.

Is this amazing?

DeAngelo is now 72. He will be charged for murder, but not for the rapes because of the statute of limitations. It’s a shame. Justice is justice.

The doorbell rings.

No side gates are left open. You’re long past leaping over a fence. Take one of your hyper, gulping breaths. Clench your teeth. Inch timidly toward the insistent bell.

This is how it ends for you.

“You’ll be silent forever, and I’ll be gone in the dark,” you threatened a victim once.

Open the door. Show us your face.

Walk into the light.

– Michelle McNamara, Letter to an old man

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I’m hooked on the True Crime genre. I’m not sure if it’s something I’ll read much more, though. My country is very violent and I don’t think I need more violence. Perhaps if the cases are solved… But it’s so interesting. Do you have any recommendations?

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