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

This is a challenging book to review because so much has been written about it, and its author, already.  It went on my “to be read” list almost immediately upon publication but was always passed over for various reasons.   So when I saw the pop sugar challenge item of reading a book published posthumously, I knew the time had come to read the book that everyone seemed to love.  And I was very, very happy I did because this was a gripping, emotional, and almost unbelievable story that needed to be told.

In the 1970’s,  the Sacramento area was tormented by a rapist turned murderer that went by many names but eventually called The Golden State Killer. At the time, these horrific acts seemed to be unrelated and it wasn’t until years later that the police and investigators started putting the fact together and realized they were trying to catch a serial killer.   Part memoir of a woman obsessed with finding the killer, part crime thriller, this book sheds light on a terrifying time that many in California will never forget.

This book had me hooked from the start.  What fascinated me most is how long the GSK got away with his crimes when it turns out multiple people interacted with him or almost caught him before he committed his crimes.  To me, and McNamara, this seemed to be the biggest question.  How could he get away with it for so long? Without the use of DNA evidence, it seemed impossible to solve the case, especially with so much time gone by.  McNamara does a great job detailing the attacks and then viewing them through the lense of the present, adding previously unknown details to the case and even retracing the steps of the killer, 30 years later. It’s a testament to her skills as a writer and an investigator that her team was able to finish her book after her death using the concise notes she took and previous article she had written about the GSK.   The details of the crimes can be tough to read (and I listened to the audio book which was even more chilling) and sometimes it is graphic. But I think that’s the point.  By describing the crimes and following up with personal stories of the family and friends of the victims, McNamara proves how important this work was and it explains how this book could so easily consume her life.  It’s a fascinating, dark work and it’s a shame she died before she could not only publish the book but see the GSK caught (which happened about a year after the release of the book).  The police that caught him have said the book had very little to do with the capture but I find that hard to believe.  At the very least, this book brought the crime to the front pages again and sparked a renewed interest in the case.

This was a tough book to read for multiple reasons but so well-written and engaging. I would definitely recommend it to fans of true crime and serial killer non-fiction but also readers who are looking for a immersive look at what it takes to find and capture a killer.

Favorite Quote:

“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.”


Author: Michelle McNamara, with an introduction by Gillian Flynn and an afterword by Patton Oswalt.

Published:  2018

Rating:  5 Stars



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