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

My Rating: ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ 4 out of 5 ⭐️’s

This is a review of I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer by Michelle McNamara. I decided to give this book a try because it’s a little out of my comfort zone. I don’t usually gravitate to true crime stories, as I tend to be more squeamish than most and I get scared easily— but I thought why not give it a try and throw it on the poll. To my surprise, I learned it is a pretty popular pick among readers— it came in second place, which leads to why I’m reviewing it now!

What is it about?

The book opens with an introduction by the wildly popular author Gillian Flynn, and concludes with an afterword by Michelle McNamara’s husband Patton Oswalt. The body of the book is a documentation of McNamara’s obsessive search for the Golden State Killer (a term she coined), a dangerous man who had eluded police and committed countless rapes and murders in California. Unfortunately, before McNamara was able to finish her search she passed away suddenly in the night. After her death the book was pieced together by her colleagues. The documentation included in the book is detailed, and includes information from police reports, and specifics regarding interviews with the victims and their friends and family. McNamara was a true crime journalist and her book reads as if you are hearing the information first hand from an investigator or an officer who was on the scene of the crimes. Overall, her prose is compelling— it vividly showcases how passionate she was in her quest to reveal the killer’s identity.

The Good:

McNamara’s writing style flows effortlessly, and is extremely easy to read. I enjoyed reading about her passion for finding the rapist and murderer responsible for over fifty rapes, and the murder of at least ten people. I like how she includes little bits of information about her private life so readers are able to get an idea of who she is as a person. However, most of all I like how she makes sure to respect the victims (whether living or not), their families, and their friends. She emphasizes how crucial it is that through the investigation and retelling of the facts, that the victims are always shown the degree of privacy desired and that they are shown respect. McNamara also goes above and beyond in showing gratitude towards all law enforcement who were involved with the case(s).

The Bad:

This book is one disturbing detail after another. I could barely keep it together while reading—it made me extremely woozy . McNamara uses great description in illustrating the various crime scenes, and, to me personally, it seemed a little too descriptive. Not everyone will have this perspective, but for me— I could have done without being forced to envision all of what happened to the victims.

My Takeaway:

After reading I’ll Be Gone in the Dark, I do not believe I will be converting into a true crime fan anytime in the near future. I thought it might be for me, and that I could handle it…but I was mistaken. I would have given this book a five star rating if I had found myself taken with the subject material or if I hadn’t been able to put it down— and if I’m being honest I actually wanted to give it two or three stars. However, that isn’t really fair, because, the book isn’t poorly written or disengaging, but it’s merely just not for me. I’m thinking I might be in the minority on this one. So, if you are super into watching Law and Order or you love reading about the details of heinous crimes, and unraveling the process that leads to uncovering the bad guy— then this book is definitely for you. I respect true crime fans way too much to give this book any less than four stars. As for the rest of you… on to the next.