Open the door. Show us your face.
Walk into the light.
— I’ll Be Gone in the Dark, Michelle McNamara
I want to talk about I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer. In light of the Golden State Killer’s recent arrest, this book is incredibly timely and informative.
Prior to hearing the recommendation for this book on My Favorite Murder I had not heard of the Golden State Killer (also known as: East Area Rapist and Original Night Stalker). As a lover of all things true crime though, I impulsively purchased this book and let it sit on my shelves for a little while. Then when I heard of the GSK’s arrest, I knew I had to read this.
And I am so glad I did.
Don’t get me wrong, this book is terrifying. Reading about the things the GSK did and how heinous his crimes were made me paranoid and constantly double check my locks at night. I was disgusted that someone so sick and disturbed was walking around freely and hadn’t been caught for 40 years. However, I am grateful I read this book after his arrest because it gave me some level of comfort to know that the committer of these rapes and murders was locked up and would be tried for his crimes.
What makes this book great though is Michelle McNamara’s writing and dedication to this search. You can tell by the narrative that she’s written that her life had been dedicated to putting this man behind bars. Her writing is strong and kept me on my toes throughout the entire book. She balanced describing the GSK’s crimes with sections about her life and her search. This gave the reader’s much needed breaks from the descriptions of the GSK’s attacks and provided some insight into why she wrote this book. I never felt like I was being buried with facts because McNamara weaved her own thoughts into the book and described where her search took her. There were many sections that described how she worked with current and former investigators to get a deeper understanding of the case and the Golden State Killer.
Every time I turned a page in this book, I got chills from how terrifying the crimes were and how McNamara described everything about this case. I never wanted to put it down and, even though I finished it last night, I’m still thinking about this case and want to dive in to do my own research.
My favorite part of this book is the afterword and epilogue. After a tense telling of the Golden State Killer, Patton Oswalt’s afterword left my heart in pieces. He described his life with Michelle and how dedicated she was to solving this case. He wrote about how desperately he wanted to see the cell doors shut behind the Golden State Killer and that somehow he hopes Michelle knows. It is because of Oswalt that this book was finished because he, “…knew that [he] wouldn’t be able to live and go on with life if this was left undone” (USA Today). How supportive Oswalt was of Michelle’s work in life and death broke my heart, but made me feel so honored that I was given the opportunity to read this book.
I hope that the Golden State Killer goes to jail and rots there forever. I hope one day Patton Oswalt gets to talk to him and asks him all of the question McNamara wrote in her “Letter to an Old Man” (the epilogue to I’ll Be Gone in the Dark).
I think everyone should pick up this book. It is one of the best books I’ve read (despite the disturbing content).
Here are some pieces about the Golden State Killer and his recent arrest that I found interesting:
- As a young cop, Golden State Killer suspect was aloof, ambitious, ‘always serious’ (LA Times)
- Golden State Killer Caught! (Episode 118 of My Favorite Murder)
- To find alleged Golden State Killer, investigators first found his great-great-great-grandparents (Washington Post)
- I’ll Be Gone in the Dark at Skylight Books (Episode 115 of My Favorite Murder)