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
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