“I don’t care if I’m the one who captures him. I just want bracelets on his wrists and a cell door slamming behind him.”
Michelle McNamara died in April 2016 halfway through the writing of I’ll be Gone in the Dark but her husband, Patton Oswalt, editors and research assistants completed her book and published in February of this year. Two months later, on April 24th, the Golden State Killer was found using a DNA profile uploaded to a genealogy website. There was a lot of hubbub surrounding the book both when it first came out and after the revelation that former police officer Joseph James DeAngelo was the man responsible for over 13 murders and 50 rapes so my library’s wait list was pretty long but boy was this worth the wait. I read it in a single day.
McNamara does an excellent job compiling loads of data to form a cohesive narrative and her team does an amazing job at mimicking her voice for the chapters they had to write based on her research (which is notated). This is pretty straight forward true crime but McNamara’s passion along with the decades of information she had to work with elevates it beyond your typical nonfiction work. This is not a bored Hollywood housewife’s pet project but a rather a Herculean effort to solve a decades old cold case despite not being a detective. There are so many victims, California towns and various detectives that some of the cases ran together but that is through no fault of McNamara’s but rather the nature of such a complicated case.
McNamara is a great writer who manages to interject personal ancedotes, a litttle humor and a lot of detail into the deeply haunting I’ll be Gone in the Dark. It was easy to picture the juxtaposition of Michelle surrounded by her daughter’s toys typing furiously about such a sinister subject. There are a few graphic descriptions, this is serial rapist and murderer afterall, so if those are difficult subjects for you I’d suggest passing on this one.
Oh, one last thing to highlight Michelle’s brilliance. There is an entire chapter dedicated to the usefulness but murky legality of getting DNA information from websites like Ancestry.com and what do you know- that’s how they got the bastard. Michelle clearly had a knack for detective work and I hope she is resting easy knowing her life’s work was not in vain.