Week 36 of the 2018 Reading Challenge 'Historical Non-fiction'
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 didn’t want to go into this novel unprepared. I knew that with such a heavy subject matter I would be faced with timelines, dates, lots of names and endless amounts of investigative details. I wanted to make sure I was ready to give my undivided attention to this book to fully absorb all the information. And there was a lot!!
This historical nonfiction begins as more of a memoir. It introduces us to Michelle and how the unsolved murder of a neighbor at age 14 sparked her fascination with cold cases. As time went on her attraction and obsession escalated and she started a blog called ‘True Crime Diary.’
Originally thought to be two offenders, the East Area Rapist, and the Original Night Stalker, it was Michelle McNamara who dubbed him the Golden State Killer. In the book, you get to see the evolution of DNA technology and how it was used to confirm the rapes and murders were committed by the one person.
I came to understand very early on how she became so captivated by the unsolved crimes. I was drawn so deeply into the story that I too wanted to investigate more. Her passion, enthusiasm, and bravery make it all the more tragic that she passed away before finishing the book.
I was not familiar with Michelle's writing, but I am now. As soon as I finished her masterpiece, I checked out her ‘True Crime Diary’ website and am now just as obsessed as I was with the book.
I wouldn’t ever associate compassion with ‘true crime,’ but Michelle somehow manages to write the nitty gritty horror of this monster beautifully. She shows professionalism towards the case, but you can also feel her empathy for the victims and her strong determination to find justice for them and their families. By the end, you feel like you know them all.
When describing the hysteria that swept through California at the time, you feel like your right there, frightened and wanting to take precautions like everybody else. People began lighting their houses up like Christmas trees, there was a surge in gun sales, hammers went under pillows, and some couples slept in shifts.
At the time of publication not only had Michelle passed away but the identity of the Golden Gate Killer was still unknown. Until a few months after On April 24, 2018, when Joseph James DeAngelo was arrested.
They got him, Michelle. I hope your watching and find some peace in knowing it’s over.
One day soon, you’ll hear a car pull up to your curb, an engine cut out. You’ll hear footsteps coming up your front walk. Like they did for Edward Wayne Edwards, twenty-nine years after he killed Timothy Hack and Kelly Drew in Sullivan, Wisconsin. Like they did for Kenneth Lee Hicks, thirty years after he killed Lori Billingsley in Aloha, Oregon. 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 toward 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.
— MICHELLE McNamara
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