I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara, 4 Stars

Last year I was a HUGE My Favorite Murder fan. And I still do like the podcast, but I get bogged down sometimes in the dialogue surrounding the cases they cover. I mean, sometimes it can take 45 minutes to get to the featured stories for that week. I think this would matter less if I was caught up and listened once a week. But I tend to just listen to podcasts when I jog outside.

But with winter, there can be months when I’m not jogging outside. So it could be 3-4 days a week I’m listening and I just want to cut to the show. Is that wrong? Maybe. They are funny gals.

But I digress.

The whole point of this anecdote is to say that the first time I heard of Michelle McNamara was when they talked about her, her true crime blog, and her work to track down the East Area Rapist on My Favorite Murder. Ironically enough, it wasn’t the featured story of the day, but it was interesting. It was early on in my MFM addiction.

Anyhow I was months behind on the podcast and so it happened that they were talking about her and her work and the creepy Golden State Killer days before she died in her sleep of a heart attack. So it’s kind of like when you learn a new word and can’t stop hearing it everywhere. I had just learned about her work and BAM, two days later I heard of her passing. And I seriously wondered…was it a heart attack, or him? Creepy right. Although I’m pretty sure it was a heart attack.

But I’ve been interested in her story. And was so thrilled when I heard that her debut would still be published, posthumously.

From the Publisher:

A masterful true crime account of the Golden State Killer—the elusive serial rapist turned murderer who terrorized California for over a decade—from Michelle McNamara, the gifted journalist who died tragically while investigating the case.

“You’ll be silent forever, and I’ll be gone in the dark.”

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. Framed by an introduction by Gillian Flynn and an afterword by her husband, Patton Oswalt, the book was completed by Michelle’s lead researcher and a close colleague. Utterly original and compelling, it is destined to become a true crime classic—and may at last unmask the Golden State Killer.

My Review:

I’ve read a bit of true crime. And usually, they are pretty straightforward. A long article in a news magazine, or reminiscent of an episode of Dateline. But I’ll Be Gone in the Dark definitely had a voice. Michelle’s voice.

Not only does she recount the details of the crimes, but she tells the story of the detectives, and she tells her own story. From true crime fanatic, to blogger, to true crime author. Quite a journey! And of course a tragedy for the world to have lost such a talented writer and investigator, not to mention the loss for her family.

I’ve heard the details of the crimes before, and they are horrifying. The stuff of nightmares. So I’m not going to focus on those right now. I will say the book treated the crimes with dignity and respect for the victims. The details were less salacious and I did appreciate that as it would have been hard to get through the whole book if much of it was there for shock value.

I also really enjoyed the forward from Gillian Flynn and the afterword by Michelle’s husband, Patton Oswalt. Flynn never knew McNamara but her prose still made me feel warm and fuzzy thoughts towards the woman we lost. And of course, I could feel the pride in Oswalt’s writing when he talked about his late wife and her work.

I really enjoyed this one. The ending was a little disappointing, as it was finished by Michelle’s researcher and therefore lacked the voice that threaded throughout the first two parts of the book. But, clearly, an unavoidable disappointment.

Overall, I was thrilled with the book and at Michelle’s accomplishment. It’s a horrible tragedy that she passed away so young, and that she wasn’t able to identify the Golden State Killer, which was her greatest hope in writing the book. Maybe the attention around the book will help make her dream come true.

I’d definitely recommend this book to true crime fans. I think the book is more than that, but it is still true crime and I don’t know if it will appeal to those who don’t enjoy the genre.

Get your copy:




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