I was floored by this book. I’m glad that I was able to sit and read it over the course of one day, to really sink into it and give it my full attention. Yesterday my region was hit by our fourth nor’easter of the month (seriously, I’m ready for second winter and March to find the exit) and since my job often makes us come into work in terrible weather conditions, and I live in a pretty inaccessible place, I spend most snow days staying in the guest room of the lovely Ale and her husband. Bonus for me was that I had a true crime book to read about a serial rapist and murderer who has not been caught and I was going to spend daylight hours with people, one of whom is a police officer. Huzzah!
I like true crime, but I usually get my fix via television or podcasts. I did a quick search of my books for the past few years and it looks like I’ve only read one since I started Cannonball Read – The Dead Duke, His Secret Wife, and the Missing Corpse. That book, and my enjoyment of it, has a lot in common with I’ll Be Gone in the Dark. Michelle McNamara took her obsession with the Golden State Killer and made it accessible to the rest of us, in beautifully crisp chapters built on her exquisite prose. Her writing is chock full of detail, but it never feels overwhelming . McNamara crafts the world of the Golden State Killer, and finds the balance between the facts of the case and making meaning from them. The writing is never lurid, but it doesn’t flinch from the truth of the crimes committed. But most of all the entire book I infused with a sense of curiosity, of wanting to know the truth, the answer.
I imagine that Ms. McNamara would have been a great conversationalist, but not necessarily in the way we generally use that term. We usually mean that someone is great at talking about anything, but my favorite kind of conversationalist is someone who is able to weave together several topics to elucidate a larger concept. The raconteurs. Michelle McNamara was one of those people, and her posthumously published book introduces us to a fantastic writer with an enormous gift for research who was taken from us too soon.
I’m not the most likely candidate for this book: I never read Ms. McNamara’s website, True Crime Diary, and I’m not overly familiar with the Golden State Killer or any other monikered killers. I did read Ms. McNamara’s article “In the Footsteps of a Killer” for L.A. Magazine, but my memory of it is vague. I was concerned before I started this book that the unsolved nature of the crimes would leave me feeling empty, or depressed, and while the very nature of GSK’s crimes (over 50 rapes and 10 rather gruesome murders) did affect me greatly McNamara structured her narrative in a way where the not knowing isn’t a detractor it is instead just another facet of the story.
My big take aways from this one? People don’t call the police enough for legitimate issues and we are living during the great changing of the tide for cold cases. May the officers on the case and the amateur sleuths aiding them be successful, and may the victims have healing.
Five unapologetic stars for a book that made me feel while introducing me to a lovely person and a truly terrible one, and all the ones in between.