Imagine, if you will, a mother sitting in the darkness of her sleeping child’s room late at night, night after night, bent over her laptop, going further and further down a dark rabbit hole of internet articles, emails from authorities and fellow searchers. Chasing a killer. Feeling the shape of him slip out of her fingers just when she thinks she is finally about to grasp him. There are so many clues. So many tips. He SHOULD be caught.
Michelle McNamara’s obsession with catching the human monster she named The Golden State Killer, who committed over 50 rapes and at least 12 killings in California in the late 70’s and early 80’s (I’m just putting that in there to be thorough… unless you don’t have the internet I’m sure you know who the fuck I’m talking about) led her to create this incredibly haunting, poetic and detailed book. I’ll Be Gone in the Dark is so beautifully written that, at times, you forget the grisly subject matter until she delivers the cold hard facts like the twist of an elegant knife.
It was clearly her life’s work, which she never got to finish. Sadly, Michelle died in 2016. Just two years before the killer’s capture, only days ago, after decades of anonymity.
Before, it was impossible to read this book without catching some of her fever to solve the mystery.
Now, it’s impossible to read it without searching every sentence for the killer’s presence. Was he at this press conference? This crime scene? Because he was a fucking cop oh my god???
It’s also impossible to read this book without imagining what it would have meant to her to know he’s been captured. It’s bittersweet.
After Michelle’s death, the book was completed with great care and respect by Paul Haynes and Billy Jensen, Michelle’s fellow researchers and colleagues. I’ll Be Gone in the Dark is framed by an intro by badass Gillian Flynn and Michelle’s marvelous husband, Patton Oswalt.
If you can get through Michelle’s “Letter to an Old Man” at the end of the book without weeping into a bottle of wine or a vat of macaroni and cheese I doff my hat to you. And I don’t believe you.
Whether you think you know everything about this case or are just hearing about it due to headlines this week, I can’t recommend it highly enough.
Just don’t read it in the dark.
Santa Barbara, USA
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