W&C: I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer by Michelle McNamara

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 has been hailed as a modern true crime classic – one which fulfilled Michelle’s dream: helping unmask the Golden State Killer.

I have never related to an author more than I do with Michelle McNamara. To be so completely infatuated with the true crime genre and to come at a very real case with compassion and a desire to know the truth – I think that’s the feeling most true crime “fans” have.

McNamara is straightforward about how she became obsessed with the Golden State Killer case. She’s honest about how it impacted her as a person. Most amazingly, she’s truthful about how odd it must have seemed for her to be buried in internet research when there were ‘more normal’ outlets all around her.

Also, she’s accurately piecing together some parts of the case before it was ever closed. While it’s sad to recognize that she died not knowing the truth for herself, her book has become an integral part of the Golden State Killer case in the community of people like her. I’ll Be Gone in the Dark is an incredibly concise collection of personal accounts and investigative journalism. The facts are laid out and the speculation is prefaced well. It doesn’t create unnecessary controversy and, in a way, it’s sort of a memoir of McNamara’s final years.

I think the most insightful notion I got from I’ll Be Gone in the Dark is that everyone of us leaves a legacy behind us. For some, that legacy is horrible and tragic; for others, like McNamara, it’s inspiring. She had an amazing group of people in her life who cared about her enough to take up her project and see it through to the end. Whoever she was in life, she must have been a very special person.

Photo and synopsis from Amazon

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