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I'll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman's Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer

I'll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman's Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer

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I'll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman's Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer

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4.5/5 (164 оценки)
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459 pages
6 hours
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Издано:
Feb 26, 2019
ISBN:
9780062916310
Формат:
Книге

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On the screen…

Journalist Michelle McNamara died while working on this masterful true-crime portrait of the Golden State Killer, published just months before police say they solved the 40-year-old case. HBO's adaptation is on screens this summer.

Описание

THE BASIS FOR THE MAJOR 6-PART HBO® DOCUMENTARY SERIES

#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

A BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR:

Washington Post | Maureen Corrigan, NPR Paste Seattle Times Entertainment Weekly | Esquire Slate | Buzzfeed | Jezebel Philadelphia Inquirer Publishers Weekly | Kirkus Reviews | Library Journal | Bustle 

Winner of the Goodreads Choice Awards for Nonfiction | Anthony Award Winner | SCIBA Book Award Winner | Finalist for the Edgar Award for Best Fact Crime | Longlisted for the Carnegie Medal for Excellence

The haunting true story of the elusive serial rapist turned murderer who terrorized California during the 70s and 80s, and of the gifted journalist who died tragically while investigating the case—which was solved in April 2018.

The haunting true story of the elusive serial rapist turned murderer who terrorized California during the 70s and 80s, and of the gifted journalist who died tragically while investigating the case—which was solved in April 2018.

Introduction by Gillian Flynn • Afterword by Patton Oswalt

“A brilliant genre-buster.... Propulsive, can’t-stop-now reading.”   —Stephen King

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.

Издатель:
Издано:
Feb 26, 2019
ISBN:
9780062916310
Формат:
Книге

Также доступно как...

АудиокнигаКраткое содержание

Об авторе

Michelle McNamara (1970–2016) was the author of the website True Crime Diary. She earned an MFA in fiction writing from the University of Minnesota, and had sold television pilots to ABC and Fox and a screenplay to Paramount. She also worked as a consultant for Dateline NBC. She lived in Los Angeles and is survived by her husband, Patton Oswalt, and their daughter, Alice.


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I'll Be Gone in the Dark - Michelle McNamara

Office

Introduction

BEFORE THE GOLDEN STATE KILLER, THERE WAS THE GIRL. MICHELLE will tell you about her: the girl, dragged into the alley off Pleasant Street, murdered and left like so much trash. The girl, a young twentysomething, was killed in Oak Park, Illinois, a few blocks from where Michelle grew up in a busy, Irish Catholic home.

Michelle, the youngest child of six kids, signed her diary entries Michelle, the Writer. She said the murder ignited her interest in true crime.

We would have made a good (if perhaps strange) pair. At the same time, in my young teens, back in Kansas City, Missouri, I too was an aspiring writer, although I gave myself a slightly loftier moniker in my journal: Gillian the Great. Like Michelle, I grew up in a big Irish family, went to Catholic school, nurtured a fascination with the dark. I read Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood at age twelve, a cheap second-hand purchase, and this would launch my lifelong obsession with true crime.

I love reading true crime, but I’ve always been aware of the fact that, as a reader, I am actively choosing to be a consumer of someone else’s tragedy. So like any responsible consumer, I try to be careful in the choices I make. I read only the best: writers who are dogged, insightful, and humane.

It was inevitable that I would find Michelle.

I’ve always thought the least appreciated aspect of a great true-crime writer is humanity. Michelle McNamara had an uncanny ability to get into the minds of not just killers but the cops who hunted them, the victims they destroyed, and the trail of grieving relatives left behind. As an adult, I became a regular visitor of her remarkable blog, True Crime Diary. You should drop her a line, my husband would urge. She was from Chicago; I live in Chicago; both of us were moms who spent unwholesome amounts of time looking under rocks at the dark sides of humanity.

I resisted my husband’s urging. I think the closest I came to meeting Michelle was introducing myself to an aunt of hers at a book event: she loaned me her phone, and I texted Michelle something notably unauthorly, like, You are the coolest!!!

The truth was, I was unsure whether I wanted to meet this writer—I felt outmatched by her. I create characters; she had to deal with facts, go where the story took her. She had to earn the trust of wary, weary investigators, brave the mountains of paperwork that may contain that one crucial piece of information, and convince devastated family and friends to needle around in old wounds.

She did all this with a particular sort of grace, writing in the night as her family slept, in a room strewn with her daughter’s construction paper, scribbling down California penal codes in crayon.

I am a nasty collector of killers, but I wasn’t aware of the man Michelle would dub the Golden State Killer until she started writing about this nightmare, who was responsible for fifty sexual assaults and at least ten murders in California during the 1970s and ’80s. This was a decades-old cold case; witnesses and victims had moved away or passed away or moved on; the case encompassed multiple jurisdictions—in both Southern and Northern California—and involved myriad crime files that lacked the benefits of DNA or lab analysis. There are a very few writers who would take this on, fewer still who would do it well.

Michelle’s doggedness in pursuing this case was astounding. In a typical instance, she tracked down a pair of cuff links that had been stolen from a Stockton crime scene in 1977 on the website of a vintage store in Oregon. But she didn’t do just this; she could also tell you that "boys’ names beginning in N were relatively rare, appearing only once in the top one hundred names of the 1930s and ’40s, when the original owner of the cuff links was likely born. Mind you, this isn’t even a clue leading to the killer; it’s a clue leading to the cuff links the killer stole. This dedication to particulars was typical. Writes Michelle: I once spent an afternoon tracking down every detail I could about a member of the 1972 Rio Americano High School water polo team because in the yearbook photo he appeared lean and to have big calves"—a possible physical trait of the Golden State Killer.

Many writers who have sweat and bled gathering this much research can get lost in the details—statistics and information tend to elbow out humanity. The traits that make one a painstaking researcher are often at odds with the nuance of life.

But I’ll Be Gone in the Dark, while a beautiful work of reporting, is equally a snapshot of the time, place, and person. Michelle brings to life the California subdivisions that were edging out orange groves, the glassy new developments that made victims the stars of their own horrific thrillers, the towns that lived in the shadow of mountains that came alive once a year with thousands of scuttling tarantulas searching for mates. And the people, good God, the people—hopeful ex-hippies, striving newlyweds, a mother and her teen daughter arguing over freedom and responsibility and swimsuits for what they didn’t realize would be the last time.

I was hooked from the beginning, and so was Michelle, it seems. Her multiyear hunt for the identity of the Golden State Killer took a harsh toll on her: There’s a scream permanently lodged in my throat now.

Michelle passed away in her sleep at age forty-six, before she could finish this remarkable book. You’ll find case notes from her colleagues, but the identity of the Golden State Killer—who dunnit—remains unresolved. His identity matters not a whit to me. I want him captured; I don’t care who he is. Looking at such a man’s face is anticlimactic; attaching a name, even more so. We know what he did; any information beyond that will inevitably feel pedestrian, pale, somehow cliché: My mother was cruel. I hate women. I never had a family. . . . And so on. I want to know more about true, complete people, not dirty scraps of humans.

I want to know more about Michelle. As she detailed her search for this shadowy man, I found myself looking for clues to this writer I so admire. Who was the woman whom I trusted enough to follow into this nightmare? What was she like? What made her this way? What gave her this grace? One summer day, I found myself driving the twenty minutes from my Chicago home out to Oak Park, to the alley where the girl was found, where Michelle the Writer discovered her calling. I didn’t realize until I was there why I was there. It was because I was in my own search, hunting this remarkable hunter of darkness.

—GILLIAN FLYNN

Prologue

THAT SUMMER I HUNTED THE SERIAL KILLER AT NIGHT FROM MY daughter’s playroom. For the most part I mimicked the bedtime routine of a normal person. Teeth brushed. Pajamas on. But after my husband and daughter fell asleep, I’d retreat to my makeshift workspace and boot up my laptop, that fifteen-inch-wide hatch of endless possibilities. Our neighborhood northwest of downtown Los Angeles is remarkably quiet at night. Sometimes the only sound was the click as I tapped ever closer down the driveways of men I didn’t know using Google Street View. I rarely moved but I leaped decades with a few keystrokes. Yearbooks. Marriage certificates. Mug shots. I scoured thousands of pages of 1970s-era police files. I pored over autopsy reports. That I should do this surrounded by a half-dozen stuffed animals and a set of miniature pink bongos didn’t strike me as unusual. I’d found my searching place, as private as a rat’s maze. Every obsession needs a room of its own. Mine was strewn with coloring paper on which I’d scribbled down California penal codes in crayon.

It was around midnight on July 3, 2012, when I opened a document I’d compiled listing all the unique items he’d stolen over the years. I’d bolded a little over half the list: dead ends. The next item to search for was a pair of cuff links taken in Stockton in September 1977. At that time the Golden State Killer, as I’d come to call him, hadn’t yet graduated to murder. He was a serial rapist, known as the East Area Rapist, who was attacking women and girls in their bedrooms, first in east Sacramento County, then snaking out to communities in the Central Valley and around San Francisco’s East Bay. He was young—anywhere from eighteen to thirty—Caucasian and athletic, capable of eluding capture by vaulting tall fences. A single-story house second from the corner in a quiet, middle-class neighborhood was his preferred target. He always wore a mask.

Precision and self-preservation were his identifying features. When he zeroed in on a victim, he often entered the home beforehand when no one was there, studying family pictures, learning the layout. He disabled porch lights and unlocked sliding glass doors. He emptied bullets from guns. Unworried homeowners’ closed gates were left open; pictures he moved were put back, chalked up to the disorder of daily life. The victims slept untroubled until the flashlight’s blaze forced open their eyes. Blindness disoriented them. Sleepy minds lumbered, then raced. A figure they couldn’t see wielded the light, but who, and why? Their fear found direction when they heard the voice, described as a guttural whisper through clenched teeth, abrupt and threatening, though some detected an occasional lapse into a higher pitch, a tremble, a stutter, as if the masked stranger in the dark was hiding not only his face but also a raw unsteadiness he couldn’t always disguise.

The Stockton case in September 1977 in which he’d stolen the cuff links was his twenty-third attack and came after a perfectly bracketed summer break. Drapery hooks scraping against a curtain rod awakened a twenty-nine-year-old woman in her bedroom in northwest Stockton. She rose from her pillow. Outside patio lights framed a silhouette in the doorway. The image vaporized as a flashlight found her face and blinded her; a force of energy rushed toward the bed. His last attack had been Memorial Day weekend. It was 1:30 a.m. on the Tuesday after Labor Day. Summer was over. He was back.

He was after couples now. The female victim had tried to explain the foul odor of her attacker to the reporting officer. She struggled to identify the smell. Bad hygiene wouldn’t account for it, she said. It didn’t come from his underarms, or his breath. The best the victim could say, the officer noted in his report, was that it seemed like a nervous scent that emanated not from a particular area on his body, but from his every pore. The officer asked if she could be more specific. She couldn’t. The thing was, it wasn’t like anything she’d ever smelled before.

As in other cases in Stockton he ranted about needing money but ignored cash when it was right in front of him. What he wanted was items of personal value from those he violated: engraved wedding bands, driver’s licenses, souvenir coins. The cuff links, a family heirloom, were an unusual 1950s style and monogrammed with the initials N.R. The reporting officer had made a rough drawing of them in the margin of the police report. I was curious about how unique they were. From an Internet search I learned that boys’ names beginning in N were relatively rare, appearing only once in the top one hundred names of the 1930s and ’40s, when the original owner of the cuff links was likely born. I Googled a description of the cuff links and hit the return key on my laptop.

It takes hubris to think you can crack a complex serial murder case that a task force representing five California jurisdictions, with input from the FBI, hasn’t been able to solve, especially when your detective work is, like mine, DIY. My interest in crime has personal roots. The unsolved murder of a neighbor when I was fourteen sparked a fascination with cold cases. The advent of the Internet transformed my interest into an active pursuit. Once public records came online and sophisticated search engines were invented, I recognized how a head full of crime details could intersect with an empty search bar, and in 2006 I launched a website called True Crime Diary. When my family goes to sleep, I time travel and reframe stale evidence using twenty-first-century technology. I start clicking, scouring the Internet for digital clues authorities may have overlooked, combing digitized phone books, yearbooks, and Google Earth views of crime scenes: a bottomless pit of potential leads for the laptop investigator who now exists in the virtual world. I share my theories with the loyal regulars who read my blog.

I’ve written about hundreds of unsolved crimes, from chloroform murderers to killer priests. The Golden State Killer, though, has consumed me the most. In addition to fifty sexual assaults in Northern California, he was responsible for ten sadistic murders in Southern California. Here was a case that spanned a decade and ultimately changed DNA law in the state. Neither the Zodiac Killer, who terrorized San Francisco in the late 1960s and early ’70s, nor the Night Stalker, who had Southern Californians locking their windows in the ’80s, were as active. Yet the Golden State Killer has little recognition. He didn’t have a catchy name until I coined one. He attacked in different jurisdictions across California that didn’t always share information or communicate well with each other. By the time DNA testing revealed that crimes previously thought to be unrelated were the work of one man, more than a decade had passed since his last known murder, and his capture wasn’t a priority. He flew under the radar, at large and unidentified.

But still terrorizing his victims. In 2001 a woman in Sacramento answered her phone in the same house where she’d been attacked twenty-four years earlier. Remember when we played? a man whispered. She recognized the voice immediately. His words echo something he said in Stockton, when the couple’s six-year-old daughter got up to use the bathroom and encountered him in the hallway. He was about twenty feet away, a man in a brown ski mask and black knit mittens who was wearing no pants. He had a belt on with some kind of sword in it. I’m playing tricks with your mom and dad, he said. Come watch me.

The hook for me was that the case seemed solvable. His debris field was both too big and too small; he’d left behind so many victims and abundant clues, but in relatively contained communities, making data mining potential suspects easier. The case dragged me under quickly. Curiosity turned to clawing hunger. I was on the hunt, absorbed by a click-fever that connected my propulsive tapping with a dopamine rush. I wasn’t alone. I found a group of hard-core seekers who congregated on an online message board and exchanged clues and theories on the case. I set aside any judgments I might have had and followed their chatter, all twenty thousand posts and counting. I filtered out creeps with iffy motives and concentrated on the true pursuers. Occasionally a clue, like the image of a decal from a suspicious vehicle seen near an attack, would appear on the message board, a bit of crowdsourcing by overworked detectives who were still trying to solve the case.

I didn’t consider him a ghost. My faith was in human error. He made a mistake somewhere along the line, I reasoned.

On the summer night I searched for the cuff links, I’d been obsessed with the case for nearly a year. I favor yellow legal pads, especially the first ten or so pages when everything looks smooth and hopeful. My daughter’s playroom was littered with partially used pads, a wasteful habit and one that reflected my state of mind. Each pad was a thread that started and stalled. For advice I turned to the retired detectives who’d worked on the case, many of whom I’d come to consider friends. The hubris had been drained from them, but that didn’t stop them from encouraging mine. The hunt to find the Golden State Killer, spanning nearly four decades, felt less like a relay race than a group of fanatics tethered together climbing an impossible mountain. The old guys had to stop, but they insisted I go on. I lamented to one of them that I felt I was grasping at straws.

My advice? Grasp a straw, he said. Work it to dust.

The stolen items were my latest straw. I wasn’t in an optimistic mood. My family and I were headed to Santa Monica for Fourth of July weekend. I hadn’t packed. The weather forecast was lousy. Then I saw it, a single image out of hundreds loading on my laptop screen, the same style of cuff links as sketched out in the police file, with the same initials. I checked and rechecked the cop’s crude drawing against the image on my computer. They were going for $8 at a vintage store in a small town in Oregon. I bought them immediately, paying $40 for overnight delivery. I walked down the hallway to my bedroom. My husband was on his side, sleeping. I sat on the edge of the bed and stared at him until he opened his eyes.

I think I found him, I said. My husband didn’t have to ask who him was.

Part One

Irvine, 1981

AFTER PROCESSING THE HOUSE, THE POLICE SAID TO DREW WITTHUHN, It’s yours. The yellow tape came down; the front door closed. The impassive precision of badges at work had helped divert attention from the stain. There was no avoiding it now. His brother and sister-in-law’s bedroom was just inside the front door, directly across from the kitchen. Standing at the sink, Drew needed only to turn his head to the left to see the dark spray mottling the white wall above David and Manuela’s bed.

Drew prided himself on not being squeamish. At the Police Academy they were being trained to handle stress and never blanch. Emotional steeliness was a graduation requirement. But until the evening of Friday, February 6, 1981, when his fiancée’s sister appeared tableside at the Rathskeller Pub in Huntington Beach and said breathlessly, Drew, call your mom, he didn’t think he’d be required to use those skills—the ability to keep his mouth shut and eyes forward when everyone else went bug-eyed and screamed—so soon or so close to home.

David and Manuela lived at 35 Columbus, a single-story tract home in Northwood, a new development in Irvine. The neighborhood was one of the tendrils of suburbia creeping into what was left of the old Irvine ranch. Orange groves still dominated the outskirts, bordering the encroaching concrete and blacktop with immaculate rows of trees, a packinghouse, and a camp for pickers. The future of the changing landscape could be gauged in sound: the blast from trucks pouring cement was drowning out the dwindling tractors.

An air of genteelness masked Northwood’s conveyor-belt transformation. Stands of towering eucalyptus, planted by farmers in the 1940s as protection against the punishing Santa Ana winds, weren’t torn down but repurposed. Developers used the trees to bisect main thoroughfares and shroud neighborhoods. David and Manuela’s subdivision, Shady Hollow, was a tract of 137 houses with four available floor plans. They chose Plan 6014, The Willow, three bedrooms, 1,523 square feet. In late 1979, when the house was finished, they moved in.

The house seemed impressively grown-up to Drew, even though David and Manuela were only five years older than him. For one thing, it was brand-new. Kitchen cabinets gleamed from lack of use. The inside of the refrigerator smelled like plastic. And it was spacious. Drew and David had grown up in a house roughly the same size, but seven people had squeezed in there, had impatiently waited their turn for the shower and knocked elbows at the dinner table. David and Manuela stored bicycles in one of their home’s three bedrooms; in the other spare bedroom, David kept his guitar.

Drew tried to ignore the jealousy prickling him, but the truth was, he envied his older brother. David and Manuela, married for five years, both had steady jobs. She was a loan officer at California First Bank; he worked in sales at House of Imports, a Mercedes-Benz dealership. Middle-class aspiration welded them. They spent a great deal of time discussing whether or not to get brickwork done in the front yard and where the best place was to find quality Oriental rugs. The house at 35 Columbus was an outline waiting to be filled in. Its blankness conferred promise. Drew felt callow and lacking by comparison.

After the initial tour, Drew spent hardly any time at their house. The problem wasn’t to the level of rancor exactly, but more like displeasure. Manuela, the only child of German immigrants, was brusque, sometimes puzzlingly so. At California First Bank, she was known for telling people when they needed a haircut or pointing out when they had done something wrong. She kept a private list of co-workers’ mistakes that she wrote in German. She was slim and pretty, with prominent cheekbones and breast implants; she’d had the procedure done after her wedding because she was small and David, she told a co-worker with a kind of distasteful half shrug, seemed to prefer big chests. She didn’t flaunt her new figure. To the contrary, she favored turtlenecks and kept her arms folded in against her body, as if anticipating a fight.

Drew could see that the relationship worked for his brother, who could be withdrawn and tentative and whose manner of speaking was more sideways than straight on. But too often Drew left their company feeling trodden, the power of Manuela’s rotating grievances short-circuiting every room she entered.

In early February 1981, Drew heard through the family grapevine that David wasn’t feeling well and was in the hospital, but he hadn’t seen his brother in a while and didn’t make plans to visit him. On Monday, February 2, Manuela had taken David to Santa Ana–Tustin Community Hospital where he was admitted for a severe gastrointestinal virus. For the next several nights, she kept the same routine: her parents’ house for dinner, then to room 320 at the hospital to see David. They spoke every day and evening by phone. Late Friday morning, David called the bank looking for Manuela, but her co-workers told him she hadn’t come in to work. He tried her at home, but the phone kept ringing, which puzzled him. Their answering machine always picked up after the third ring; Manuela didn’t know how to operate the machine. Next he called her mother, Ruth, who agreed to drive over to the house and check on her daughter. After not getting an answer at the front door, she used her key to enter. A few minutes later, Ron Sharpe,* a close family friend, was summoned in a hysterical call from Ruth.

I just looked over on the left and saw her hands open like that and saw the blood all over the wall, Sharpe told detectives. I couldn’t figure out how it got on the wall from where she was lying.

He took one look in the room and never looked again.

MANUELA WAS IN BED LYING FACE DOWN. SHE WAS WEARING A brown velour robe and was partially wrapped in a sleeping bag, which she sometimes slept in when she was cold. Red marks circled her wrists and ankles, evidence of ligatures that had been removed. A large screwdriver was lying on the concrete patio two feet from the rear sliding glass door. The locking mechanism on the door had been pried open.

A nineteen-inch television from inside the house had been dragged to the southwest corner of the backyard, next to a high wooden fence. The corner of the fence was coming apart slightly, as if someone had fallen against it or jumped it too hard. Investigators observed shoe impressions of a small circle pattern in the front and back yards and on top of the gas meter on the east side of the house.

One of the first peculiarities investigators observed was that the only source of light in the bedroom came from the bathroom. They asked David about it. He was at Manuela’s parents’ house, where a group of family and friends had congregated after the news to grieve and console one another. Investigators noticed that David seemed shaken and dazed; grief was making his mind drift. His answers trailed off. He switched subjects abruptly. The question about the light confused him.

Where’s the lamp? he asked.

A lamp with a square stand and a chrome metal cannonball-shaped light was missing from atop the stereo speaker on the left side of the bed. Its absence gave police a good idea of the heavy object that was used to bludgeon Manuela to death.

David was asked if he knew why the tape was missing from the answering machine. He was stunned. He shook his head. The only possible explanation, he told police, was that whoever killed Manuela had left his voice on the machine.

The scene was deeply weird. It was deeply weird for Irvine, which had little crime. It was deeply weird for the Irvine Police Department; it smelled like a setup to a few of them. Some jewelry was missing and the television had been dragged into the backyard. But what burglar leaves his screwdriver behind? They wondered if the killer was someone Manuela knew. Her husband is staying overnight at the hospital. She invites a male acquaintance over. It gets violent and he grabs the answering machine tape, knowing his voice is on it, and goes about prying the sliding door and then, in a final touch of staging, leaves the screwdriver behind.

But others doubted that Manuela knew her killer. Police interviewed David at the Irvine Police Department the day after the body was found. He was asked if they had had any problems with prowlers in the past. After thinking about it, he mentioned that three or four months earlier, in either October or November 1980, there had been footprints that he couldn’t explain. They looked to David like tennis shoes and went from one side of the house all the way to the other side and into the backyard. Investigators slid a piece of paper across the table and asked David to draw the footprint as best he remembered it. He sketched it quickly, preoccupied and exhausted. He didn’t know that police had a plaster-cast impression of Manuela’s killer’s footprint as he stalked the house the night of the murder. He pushed the paper back. He’d drawn a right tennis shoe sole with small circles.

David was thanked and allowed to go home. Police slapped his sketch next to the plaster-cast impression. It was a match.

Most violent criminals are impulsive, disorganized, and easily caught. The vast majority of homicides are committed by people known to the victim and, despite game attempts to throw off the police, these offenders are usually identified and arrested. It’s a tiny minority of criminals, maybe 5 percent, who present the biggest challenge—the ones whose crimes reveal preplanning and unremorseful rage. Manuela’s murder had all the hallmarks of this last type. There were the ligatures, and their removal. The ferocity of her head wounds. The several-month lapse between appearances of the sole with small circles suggested the slithering of someone rigidly watchful whose brutality and schedule only he knew.

Midday on Saturday, February 7, having sifted through clues for twenty-four hours, the police did one more run-through and then authorized release of the house back to David. This was before the existence of professional crime-scene cleanup companies. Sooty fingerprint powder stained the doorknobs. David and Manuela’s queen mattress was gouged in places where criminalists had cut away sections to bag as evidence. The bed and wall above it were still splattered with blood. Drew knew that, as a cop-in-training, he was the natural choice for the cleanup job and volunteered to do it. He also felt he owed it to his brother.

Ten years earlier, their father, Max Witthuhn, had locked himself in a room at the family’s home after a fight with his wife. Drew was in eighth grade and attending a school dance at the time. David was eighteen, the oldest in the family, and he was the one who beat down the door after the shotgun blast rocked the house. He shielded the family from the view and absorbed what he saw of his father’s splintered brain alone. Their father committed suicide two weeks before Christmas. The experience seemed to rob David of certainty. He was suspended in hesitation after that. His mouth smiled occasionally, but his eyes never did.

Then he met Manuela. He was on solid ground again.

Her bridal veil hung on the back of their bedroom door. The police, thinking it might be a clue, asked David about it. He explained that she always kept it there, a rare sentimental expression. The veil provided a glimpse of Manuela’s soft side, a side few had ever known—and now never would.

Drew’s fiancée was studying to be a nurse practitioner. She offered to help him with the crime-scene cleanup. They would go on to have two sons and a twenty-eight-year marriage that ended in divorce. Even at the lowest points of their relationship, Drew could be stopped short by the memory of her helping him that day;

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  • The Golden State Killer terrorized California during the 1970s and '80s, committing more than 12 murders, 50 rapes, and over 100 burglaries across the state. Decades later, determined to solve the cold case, journalist Michelle McNamara threw herself into researching the crimes, resulting in this masterful portrait of the serial killer. McNamara died before she was done with the book, but her husband Patton Oswalt made sure it was finished and published. Two months later, police arrested a suspect. HBO adapted the book into a documentary series.

    Scribd Editors

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    This is my first visit to your blog and very good information. Keep Blogging !!
  • (5/5)
    One of the few, best true crime books I ever read, and I’ve read many, many hundreds. Sadly the very talented writer had passed away not long before finishing the book. (Others took over finishing it afterward.)

    DEFINITELY a refreshing change from the same-old, typical cookie-cutter true crime book. LOVED it. By far this compelling work of nonfiction deserved every award it received along with all the recognition. SIX stars. ? & finally a book deserving of the NYT Bestseller’s List!! I only wish there were more true crime books like it.
  • (4/5)
    Listened to this on audio. McNamara was a true crime blogger/writer who became obsessed with a series of violent rapes and murders in the 70's. The crimes started in the Sacramento area and the suspect was dubbed the East Area Rapist (or EAR). He later moved south to Santa Barbara, other points south until he got to Irvine. He was also dubbed the Original Night Stalker (or ONS). Then in the late 80's his activity stopped.McNamara heard about these crimes in the mid-2010's and became obsessed with solving the case. She worked with the various police departments, compiling thousands of pages of interviews and boxes of evidence. This became the basis for this book. Unfortunately, she passed away before it was finished, and her husband Patton Oswalt tasked her researcher and a journalist friend to complete this opus.It is a very excellent read, recreating/revisiting the crimes as well as discussing her point of view and history and how she came to want to work on this subject. The introduction was read by Gillian Flynn, the book proper is read by Gabra Zackman, and Patton reads the afterword.Recommend.8/10 S: 1/18/19 - 1/26/19 (9 Days)
  • (4/5)
    I woke up on April 25th to a story I never thought, but I had long hoped, to see: there was an arrest in the Golden State Killer case. The Golden State Killer (GSK), aka The East Area Rapist (EARS) or The Original Night Stalker (ONS), was suspected of fifty rapes, a dozen murders, and more than 100 burglaries, all committed in California over the course of a few decades, and it was long thought that he wouldn’t be caught. As a huge true crime fan, I knew this case fairly well, thanks two big factors. The first was the podcast “My Favorite Murder”, and that led to the second: the book “I’ll Be Gone In The Dark” by Michelle McNamara. McNamara was a true crime writer with the blog “True Crime Diary”, and had been doggedly pursuing The Golden State Killer (a phrase she created) at the time of her tragic death in 2016. Earlier this year “I’ll Be Gone In The Dark” was released, in part to Bill Jensen, a co-investigator and investigative journalist in his own right. So when an arrest was made, the news spread like wildfire, and while the police were reluctant to give McNamara any credit outside of raising awareness, many think that that very awareness (starting with her blog and various articles she wrote) was vital to putting pressure on, which in turn led to an arrest. I read “I’ll Be Gone In The Dark” before Joseph DeAngelo, a former police officer and seventy two year old man, was arrested for the crimes. But now that he has been, I want to shine a light on this great book, especially since the story has finally found some closure.What stands out immediately about this book is how personal it is. While McNamara herself didn’t know anyone who was hurt or killed by GSK/EAR/ONS, an unsolved murder of a childhood neighbor always stuck with her throughout her life. As she started to learn about The Golden State Killer, she began to feel a deep sense of injustice for the victims that he left behind, and started to investigate it herself. She made connections with investigators, she dove into online groups of fellow armchair investigators, she visited locations and dug through box after box of evidence. Her almost obsessive commitment to this case is juxtaposed with the crimes themselves, and the horror that GSK/EAR/ONS brought upon his victims. But she is always sure to be respectful, and to keep the details vague enough to be respectful, but precise enough to paint a picture of just how awful these crimes were. She gives voice and context for the people that GSK/EAR/ONS raped or murdered, and always puts them at the forefront and the fact that justice eluded them and those they left behind for so long. In many true crime books (with a few exceptions, of course, like Ann Rule) the focus is primarily on the murderer, and the victims merely objects in a salacious story. But with McNamara, she wants the reader to know the victims and makes their voices the most important ones. Would this be different had DeAngelo been identified at publishing? Possibly. But I do get the sense that for McNamara, the identity was only important for justice purposes; this wouldn’t have been a story to give him any glory or to make his crimes entertainment.As you read, McNamara instills actual terror into you. I had to stop reading this book after dark, because any noise and anything out of place sent me into a paranoid spiral. Her writing is that immersive, pulling you in and keeping you engaged. She also makes herself vulnerable by being fully aware and honest with her own obsession, and the toll that it takes on her life and her own mental health. Unlike the book that Robert Graysmith wrote about The Zodiac Killer, McNamara knew that she was treading towards obsession, and that it was deeply affecting her life. The sad fact of the matter is that when Michelle died unexpectedly in her sleep, she could have been seen as, in a way, GSK/EAR/ONS ‘s last victim. She had been having trouble sleeping, and her husband (comedian Patton Oswalt) had suggested she take some Xanax and just sleep until she woke up. And she didn’t wake up, because of an undiagnosed heart condition in tandem to the Xanax and other prescriptions. The tragedy of her death lingers on the page, as there are sections with editor’s notes that explain that they were originally unfinished, or that they were pieced together by her notes or previous articles. It’s so great to see that this book and story she was so dedicated to was finished by people close to her, but the loss is still palpable.So how does the new information about John DeAngelo affect this book? If anything, it makes it more poignant, and it certainly doesn’t diminish it. I say this because of a specific moment in the epilogue, entitled “A Letter To An Old Man”. It’s a final moment that is essentially a letter from Michelle to GSK/EAR/ONS, and it works as a powerful cap off to a wonderful book. The final paragraph is all the more powerful now. I’m going to quote part of it here to show you what I mean, a quote that’s made the rounds on social media a lot in the days after DeAngelo’s capture.“The doorbell rings. No side gates are left open. You’re long past leaping over a fence. Take one of your hyper, gulping breaths. Clench your teeth. Inch timidly towards the insistent bell. This is how it ends for you. ‘You’ll be silent forever, and I’ll be gone in the dark,’ you threatened a victim, once. Open the door. Show us your face. Walk into the light.”And as Patton Oswalt and many others have pointed out, this is exactly what happened on April 25th, 2018.“I’ll Be Gone in the Dark” is a stunning true crime book and an opus for a voice that left us far too soon. It will surely be considered one of the greats of the genre in the years to come, and Michelle McNamara will be remembered for all the good that she did in her help to bringing closure to the victims of a horrible monster. But it’s also just well written book about confronting darkness in life and in ourselves, and how to battle it as best we can.
  • (3/5)
    A very interesting book and I'm glad I read it. However, the stellar reviews by Stephen King and Michael Connelly on the back cover left me puzzled. Some parts of the book are very good indeed, some patchy and some repetitive. This is totally not the fault of the original author who tragically died before the book was finished, leaving her friends and collaborators to fill in the gaps. I would definitely recommend this to anyone with an interest in true crime but warn them to be aware of its shortcomings too.
  • (4/5)
    Tags: Nonfiction, Audiobook, True Crime, Golden State Killer/East Area Rapist, Unsolved Mysteries (but recently solved)Overview: Michelle McNamara was a freelance writer and crime blogger (and whose husband you may know as the well-known comedic actor Patton Oswalt). She became incredibly obsessed with the East Area Rapist (EAR) who she later dubbed “The Golden State Killer” (which stuck) and, for years, looked into the crimes and people involved with investigating them. She was working on this book when she died unexpectedly in her sleep in 2016. Oswalt, with the help of editors and through use of her notes and what had been written, published the book posthumously in 2018, just before police successfully captured the Golden State Killer through the use of DNA on an ancestry site.Highlights: This book sold like wildfire especially after the announcement was made that they’d finally captured the Golden State Killer shortly after the book was published. So there was a lot of hype surrounding it in mid-2018. I had heard that it kept people up at night and some went so far as to install security systems in their homes. While I found it to be a bit creepy in the beginning, it quickly become very technical with details of crime scenes and interviews with those who did much of the investigation in the 70s and 80s. McNamara never fully figured it all out, though it was apparent, towards the end of the book, that she was on the right track and getting really close. Had she held out a bit longer, she would’ve seen the killer finally come to justice.Pre-Requisites: It helps to know a bit of the background of the East Area Rapist – an overview of the time period and some of the crimes committed. The book jumps around a bit and it can be hard to follow along with the storyline, so it’s helpful to have a grounded idea of where all the jumping around takes place in the larger scheme of things.If you like: true crime, unsolved mysteries (but recently solved!), books about murders (and other crimes), investigative research, 1970s-80s based stories, investigations pre-21st century tech
  • (4/5)
    I think you have to know the backstory (the author's premature death and the capture of the GSK after the book was published. I read a book review prior to the capture but did not read the book until just recently. I knew she didn't solve the mystery so thought I would not bother reading it after he was arrested. But I'm glad I did. McNamara is a phenom as a researcher and analyst and had the capacity to build bridges with various law reinforcement jurisdictions, one investigator at a time. Coupled with the fascinating story she told, it had my attention all the way through. Yes, there were sections that were put together from her rough notes by her co-authors but that was pointed out at the beginning and, I think, were mostly essential to telling her story. I found the book fascinating and feel very sad that she did not live to see the arrest of someone who was not ever a suspect.
  • (4/5)
    This is the author's memoir of her obsession with identifying the EAR/ONS who we now know to be Joseph James DeAngelo. The problem with this book was that McNamara died before DeAngelo was identified and before she finished the book. The book was acually pieced together after her death. Now that DeAngelo has been identified you are reading of his devious crimes through a different lens. He was responsible for over 50 rapes, 12 murders, and 120 break ins. The parts of the book where McNamara describe the victims and the lives they were leading before tragedy interceded were so well written and were my favorite. I found the weak part to be in the end where all of her conjecture and grasping at straws hypothesis. She was not a law enforcement officer with detective training. She was someone who was a good writer and who was fascinated, maybe in a n unhealthy way, with the case. The most interesting thing I took from the book was when it was revealed that she was interested in using Ancestry.com to submit the unidentified DNA. We now know that was how the case was solved. DeAngelo's DNA was submitted into a family DNA site and his family was identified. McNamara did not have the ability to do this herself. I wonder if the detectives got the idea to do that from her. If that is the case then she solved everything. Publicly they have said that her research had no bearing on what they did. Due to McNamara's death I found the book to be disjointed. It is better if you know the facts of the case before trying to read it. DeAngelo's crimes were prolific and it is hard to understand all that is attributed to him just by reading the book. If you read the Wikipedia article first you will be better off. What I got from this book are glimpses of how good the book could have been if MCNamara had lived long enough to see DeAngelo's arrest. As it is you are left with a tribute to one woman's obsession with unmasking a man who very nearly eluded justice.
  • (4/5)
    The Golden State Killer is an uncaught man responsible for over fifty rapes and/or murders across California. Until recently, law enforcement were not even aware that the unknown rapist known as the East Area Rapist was the same person as the serial killer working further south, who was known as the Original Night Stalker. Author Michelle McNamara became fascinated by unsolved crimes after a young woman was killed in her community when McNamara was fourteen. She would eventually start a blog and become a well-known amateur sleuth who used the internet to find clues and to look over the original police work, becoming knowledgeable enough to be accepted by the detectives and forensic scientists who had worked or are still working on finding the criminal. I'll Be Gone in the Dark is the result of years and years of work. There's a lot of hype and publicity surrounding this book. The author died before the book was finished, but her husband and fellow researchers worked to put together a finished book from what she's already written as well as drafts of magazine articles and her notes. The result should be a mess, but instead makes for fascinating reading. McNamara takes a series of crimes in which the perpetrator varied little in his approach and methods, and crafted a well-paced and insightful book. Her writing combines accounts from survivors, family members, and law enforcement with the story of her pursuit of the killer and how it affected her, as well as how advances in forensics have allowed clues and evidence to be found that was unavailable when he was committing his first crimes. McNamara's writing shines and stands in startling contrast to the plodding prose of the final chapters put together by others.
  • (3/5)
    Michelle McNamara was clearly a dogged and brilliant researcher, a good citizen, and loving mother and wife. Her death is a loss to so many, and my heart goes out to them. I want to want to give this a 5-star, but if I am being honest I don't feel the book accomplishes much. I don't read a lot of true crime, but I have read and liked a number of books in this genre. I was a huge fan of Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI, The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America, The Executioner's Song, In Cold Blood, Shot in the Heart, Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders and a number of other less classic crime books. This book though was nothing like those books. This was 100% procedural, and that did not work for me. Because no one has ever solved this case, we know nothing of the killer. Delving into the "why" is for me the most interesting aspect of crime writing. Of course the "how" is interesting too, but its not terribly substantial, uncomfortably voyeuristic, and repetitive. It is a side dish to the main event of understanding why these things happen, and sometimes what this says about all of us as a community or society. For me, this book offered no entree. It felt like a needlessly extended magazine piece (which is what it was.)The book was well-written enough, and it didn't bore me, but there are much better crime books out there that provide actual insight rather than simple documentation of (failed) crime-solving.
  • (3/5)
    I appreciate Michelle McNamara's dedication and tireless willingness to chase down details in order to help solve a cold case that haunted California for years. Her unexpected death, the finishing of her book from her notes, and the subsequent capture of the Golden State Killer are bittersweet codas to the work she began and never saw complete. But the book itself, I'm sorry to say...not so much. It's thoroughly researched and passionately reported, but it's really a magazine article (or two) stretched to book length. And after awhile, reading it feels like a slog. All the ingredients are here and I wanted to be sucked in, but it just didn't come together for me. I would have loved to see what the author could do with long-form crime reporting if she had more time.
  • (4/5)
    Writer Michelle McNamara, was obsessed with cold-crime cases. In her blog, she pondered those unsolved, perhaps unsolvable cases in which violent offenders apparently eluded justice. And with no case was she more obsessed than that of the Golden State Killer. Over a 10-year period, one man (ultimately connected via after-the-fact DNA evidence) was tied to 50 sexual assaults and 10 murders in central and southern California.It was a quest which consumed her until her sudden death in 2016, and one for which no satisfying conclusion was ever reached in her lifetime. McNamara left hundreds of thousands of pages of police reports, newspaper clippings, emails, lists, database results, recorded interviews – and the partially-completed manuscript which became “I’ll Be Gone in the Dark”, completed by colleagues, researchers, and editors.As such, it’s an intriguing but patchy tale which lacks the ultimate punchline. No perpetrator is ever arrested, no prime suspect is singled out with any degree of certainty. The reader is left wondering – as McNamara herself was left wondering – what happened to the Golden State Killer and whether his identity is still buried somewhere in the margins of a crime scene report or a misdemeanor arrest dismissed as irrelevant. Unless the reader makes it a habit to follow crime reporting, one is apt to remain unaware of the 2018 arrest of a suspect whose name never surfaced in her research, but who was in fact ultimately identified by the forensic DNA technology in which she placed so much hope.The known details of the crimes are horrific reminders of the violence inherent in some twisted minds. It’s an unsettling read, but also a fascinating one as the emerging technologies of the 21st century irrevocably changed the ground rules of criminal investigation..
  • (4/5)
    I love a good, fictional murder mystery and rarely read true crime. But I was eager to read I'll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara. It was the subtitle that grabbed me: "One Woman's Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer."McNamara was a journalist and the founder of TrueCrimeDiary.com. I say was, as she passed away before her book was published.Michelle's instincts and drive for answers led her to delve deeply into the decades old case of a serial rapist and murderer who terrorized California for over the course of ten years.It was truly fascinating to see the timeline, clues and hypothesis she built from her painstaking search. McNamara pursued the tiniest of leads, coming up with connections that kept moving her forward. Her investigative skills were truly impressive. And along with fascinating, I'll Be Gone in the Dark is just as frightening. Definitely don't listen to this at night. Alone. By yourself.The timeline of the book does jump around - keep an eye or an ear on the heading for each chapter. Despite that, it's not a problem to follow the story at all - it makes for riveting reading or listening.McNamara offers up pieces of her own life in I'll Be Gone in the Dark. And for this reader, it was this personal aspect that had I'll Be Gone in the Dark encompassing more than simply a 'true crime' label.I did choose to listen. Gabra Zackman was the narrator. She has a clean, crisp, no nonsense voice that matched the mental image I had for the author. Her inflection captures the tone and tenor of the content. An 'easy to to listen to' narrator that did a great job interpreting a not so easy narrative.Gillian Flynn provides a great introduction to the book. And the title? "He pointed a knife at her and issued a chilling warning: "Make one move and you'll be silent forever and I'll be gone in the dark."The case remains unsolved......(Gentle readers, this is not the book for you - the cases are somewhat graphic in their detail.
  • (4/5)
    An enticing audiobook about Michelle McNamara's search for the EAR or the Golden State Killer.
  • (3/5)
    Michelle McNamara was still working on this book when she died. Her research team and editor finished it by piecing together the finished sections, her notes, and various articles she'd written. Unfortunately, it reads exactly like the resulting patchwork, often lacking cohesion and structure.For the most part, this is more a memoir and tribute to Michelle than a true crime book about the Golden State Killer. The subtitle states, "One Woman's Obsessive Search...," and obsessive is exactly the write descriptor. McNamara's unhealthy obsession with this then-cold case made me uncomfortable. I wanted to know why no one in her family intervened. McNamara's myopic focus on this elusive killer didn't seem to leave room for her husband or daughter. Her mental health certainly suffered, and yet we never learn why this specific case, out of all those she'd researched, held her so transfixed.The first part of the book covers McNamara's personal life and obsession with this case, as well as facts about some of the rapes and murders. The second part takes us to the time when she teams up with a detective working the cold case, in which they chase after the Golden Gate Killer's trail. Some of this information is repetitive, having already been covered in the first section. The final section, for me, was little more than filler added by the editor in order to pad the page count and incorporate the copious amount of notes taken by McNamara. This section reads exactly like the dry research notes it is.This book was released in February 2018. The Golden State Killer was caught in April 2018, so there is no information here on the killer's identity or his life. Also, we never learn whether any of McNamara's immense investigative research helped - or even hindered - the detectives in charge of the case.While I did find sections interesting, I thought the content suffered from lack of structuring, as well as the underlying feel of McNamara's unhealthy obsession.
  • (3/5)
    I'm very mixed on this one. The writing style is really engaging - when it is fully the author's style. The chapters pieced together after her death don't pull me in as much, but they don't disrupt the flow either. It just seems like there are some really great chapters and some okay chapters. But the great chapters are really great. But it didn't work for me with this topic at all.

    For a massive, confusing case spanning decades, I need something to help clarify and provide structure. This book was not it. It jumps around too much and felt very disjointed. I think of lot of that is due to the non-linear structure of the book. It goes from the 80s, to the 2000s, to the 70s, to the 90s, to the late 80s, to the early 80s, then to the 90s... I couldn't remember when each case was in relation to other cases and could find no reason why the attacks were presented so out of order.

    Of course, the book could also feel disjointed because it was unfinished when the author passed and the editors were just not up to filling in all the blanks. One chapter was particularly jarring - Ventura, 1980. It's a short-ish chapter that ends with a long editor's note that includes The Ventura investigation was unquestionably the most labyrinthine of all the stand-alone investigations. Michelle had planned to cover it at great length, but Ventura is only lightly represented in the book.... For a more complete account of the Smith investigation and the case against Joe Alsip, Colleen Cason’s series “The Silent Witness,” published in the Ventura County Star in November 2002, is an excellent reference.Seriously? I mean, I understand WHY, but seriously? If the editor is just going to throw their hands up and punt like this, then I can too. I read a bit past this chapter but ultimately decided half way through that I wasn't going to finish this book.

    So why give a book I did not finish 3-stars? Ironically, for one of the chapters that felt the most out of place to me. It's the chapter about the author - growing up, getting married, being obsessed with true crime, and the original unsolved murder that sparked her interest in the topic. It's one of the longer chapters in the book and appears out of nowhere sandwiched between chapters on GSK attacks. She writes about her relationship with her parents, fighting with her mother at her wedding, random notes her dad has written... Completely out of place. However, this chapter was also one of the more engaging, flowing chapters in the whole book. It was more suited to a biography or a preface (or even fiction) than in the middle of a true crime book, but it was still strikingly well written and engaging for me. If this book had been written on a different topic, something more suited to the random meanderings, I would have been all over simply because of the writing.

    But it wasn't, so I'm not.
  • (4/5)
    Surely an instant true crime classic, not least for what followed its publication. It’s a grippingly told story about a truly terrifying killer, but the biggest twist comes after the final page - as a suspect was finally arrested months later, using the very techniques detailed in the book
  • (3/5)
    This was a really interesting book. It's about a woman's obsession with the EAR/Golden State Killer and helping as much as she can to solve the case. (The case was solved last year, sadly after she died). Very detailed book about the murders/rapes and the path the suspect took throughout California. Ending was very sad (Kudos Patton for a great ending and writing).
  • (4/5)
    I'll be gone in the dark is a good but disturbing read. I thought Michelle McNamara did a great job of showing how horrible the crimes committed really were. I enjoyed learning about her journey leading to her obession with catching this person. Unfortunately, she passed away without completely finishing this book, however it was completed with the help of people who had worked with her. I thought overall it was a very good and informative book
  • (4/5)
    A good, encompassing book detailing one women's efforts to catch a predator who eluded police. The killer is depicted as a type of Jack the Ripper who was, after the great efforts, apprehended. The study is detailed, but the specifics sometimes went over my head. Nevertheless, this was an entertaining and informative read that spanned much of a timeline and was satisfying- as you root for McNamara, despite the odds, throughout the entire process. Due diligence is taken as well as a high degree of respect and consideration for the victims of these awful, horrendous incidents. 3.75- worth reading.
  • (4/5)
    I read many true crime novels when I was in my teens, but drifted away from the genre. This book popped up in some of my feeds and I was intrigued since I had never heard of the case before. I ended up waiting for the paperback release, specifically because it was supposed to include a new epilogue about the capture of the killer. I wasn’t sure if this was a five-star book, or a two-star after I finished it so I went down the middle. I read it in just two days, but also found it vaguely unsatisfying – and not because the author never reveals who the killer is; he was caught after publication. My issue stems from the very different writing style. It’s unlike any true crime book I have ever read before because it isn’t really a true crime novel.I’ll Be Gone in the Dark doesn’t describe the hunt for the GSK or the investigation; it really is about McNamara’s obsession with discovering who GSK is. I didn’t mind the switch in focus, but was frustrated that the book jumped around in time without an underlying reason to do so. It wasn’t linear, with occasional flashbacks to explain a development or to link two lines of investigation together. I *think* it jumped around based upon how and where the author learned something, or discovered new information. I never felt like I was seeing the case unfold. It was more like someone telling me about a book that they had read years ago but I never read myself. I admit that many of these problems are likely attributable to the book being only half written before her untimely death and completed by two people trying to piece the narrative together from notes and extensive case files. This is obvious in the last chapters where they go into EXCRUCIATING detail about geoprofiling that is so different from how the rest of the book is written and adds nothing to the narrative. I did appreciate how she worked hard to keep the victims at the heart of the story, instead of glorifying the killer and how she showed readers the people behind the badges. I also enjoyed the chapters told from her first-person perspective; they helped provide a through line for the book. Her obsession isn’t so off the rails when you consider how popular true crime books, documentaries and films are. Most of us have a (perhaps morbid) curiosity about serial killers. For some that curiosity becomes obsession. The parts about the community of like-minded amateur detectives she worked with was fascinating (I could read a whole book about that).Overall, the book has some serious flaws but was still an engrossing read. I look forward to seeing the HBO docuseries that is mentioned in the book. McNamara’s obsession was interesting, but I’d like to know about the investigation and how it was closed.
  • (4/5)
    Really very good and much better than it had a right to be as the author left us before putting her finishing touches on it. Everyone did a truly remarkable job in making the author's voice resonate throughout. I truly loved the sections of memoir and the honesty of McNamara in describing her passion for this topic. Normally, I'm not sure that I would have liked the insinuation of the author's life into the narrative, but she made it seem so completely natural and seamless that it worked. I really knew virtually nothing about this case so it was all new to me. McNamara conveyed the mood without going into a lot of graphic detail. I will honestly say that it spooked me more than a little as I sat at home alone reading of this monster's crimes. Her respect and admiration for all of the investigators who had spent huge chunks of their lives toward solving those crimes is evident and that made me respect and admire her. I really wish that she had been able to finish the book because I think the reader would have been rewarded with a narrative that was thematically more nuanced and cohesive.
  • (4/5)
    While perusing the New York Public Library's Winter 2018 Staff Picks (an excellent recommendations list by the way) I came across I'll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman's Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer by Michelle McNamara. Since I have somewhat of an interest in true crime and especially serial killers (see my archive for the evidence) this seemed a natural choice for me. McNamara (who sadly passed away before completion of the book) covers the history of the Golden State Killer back to his beginning when he was still referred to as the Visalia Ransacker before upping his game to become the East Area Rapist. (Michelle actually gave him the moniker of the Golden State Killer.) He began as a peeping tom before graduating into a burglar, rapist, and then finally a serial murderer. His reign of terror in California where he committed more than 120 burglaries, 50 rapes, and 13 murders spanned about a decade from the late 70s into the mid-80s before abruptly stopping. His crimes crossed jurisdictions and so for many years police did not know that all of these crimes were the work of one single man...a man that at the time of this book's publication was still not identified. McNamara talks about her obsession with true crime and specifically with this man who she often referred to as her 'white whale'. She cultivated relationships with other true crime aficionados through online forums (and her blog) but also developed close working friendships with detectives both past and present who had worked on the case. By assembling all of the available evidence (of which there was an abundance) she began to comb through it hoping that she would see something that would help them find the man who many believed had either died or been imprisoned on unrelated charges. Although there was ample evidence including DNA there was no match in any database so detectives routinely fed his DNA markers into genealogy websites hoping for a match...and shortly after McNamara's book was published they found one. This book is as much a true crime novel about an unidentified killer as it is the memoir of the woman who devoted so much of her time to investigating his crimes. If you like watching shows like Cold Case or really anything on the I.D. channel you'll feel right at home with I'll Be Gone in the Dark. 8/10
  • (4/5)
    The determination to find the Golden State Killer by an amateur detective shows what doggedly following leads can do. Interesting and amazing how much one woman was able to accomplish
  • (5/5)

    1 person found this helpful

    Who knew a book left unfinished at the time of the author's untimely death would feel this complete.

    1 person found this helpful

  • (3/5)

    1 person found this helpful

    This was rated as one of the best true crime books of 2018, and that is why I picked it up.
    Unfortunately, I was rather disappointed despite the glowing introduction by Gillian Flynn. Michelle McNamara apparently spent much of her life searching for this particular killer who was first a rapist and then escalated to murder. He was known by three different names, and ultimately apprehended after McNamara's untimely death. I think that is what caused the hype about the book.
    The style of writing is very interesting and well-paced in places, and then there are endless pages of what feels like unrelated biographical details about the author herself. The timeline swings back and forth and I had a headache about quarter way through the book!
    I realise this was published posthumously, edited by someone else who has obviously tried to do the author justice. I am sure if she had been alive at publication this would have been a different book.
    I would love to read a proper account of this killer who evaded justice for so long.

    1 person found this helpful

  • (3/5)
    A true crime story concerning the "Golden State Killer" or "EAR" --east side rapist. I was somewhat disappointed and probably would not have read this book had I known the author died after completing 2/3 of the book. The last 1/3 of the book was undertaken by some friends and mostly just lauded the author's previous work. The book was published 2 months before the killer was arrested; so I actually had to search online to find out about an arrest. 456 pages
  • (5/5)

    1 person found this helpful

    Loved this story. Well paced and engaging. Creepy and satisfying

    1 person found this helpful