With introduction by Gillian Flynn, a compelling true crime account of the Golden State Killer - the elusive serial rapist turned murderer who terrorised California for over a decade - from Michelle McNamara, the gifted journalist who died tragically while investigating the case.
"You’ll be silent forever, and I’ll be gone in the dark."
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.
At the time of the crimes, the Golden State Killer was between the ages of eighteen and thirty, Caucasian, and athletic - capable of vaulting tall fences. He always wore a mask. After choosing a victim - he favoured suburban couples - he often entered their home when no one was there, studying family pictures, mastering the layout. He attacked while they slept, using a flashlight to awaken and blind them. Though they could not recognise him, his victims recalled his voice: a guttural whisper through clenched teeth, abrupt and threatening.
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. Framed by an introduction by Gillian Flynn and an afterword by her husband, Patton Oswalt, the book was completed by Michelle’s lead researcher and a close colleague. Utterly original and compelling, it is destined to become a true crime classic - and may at last unmask the Golden State Killer.
Review by Sarah McDuling
This was a very emotional and bittersweet read. We know, going into this book, that the case of the Golden State Killer remains unsolved. Furthermore, the knowledge of the author’s untimely death makes this all the more poignant.
I’ll be Gone in the Dark is an incredibly in-depth, utterly compelling investigation of the serial rapist and murderer who has become known as the Golden State Killer (also known as the Original Night Stalker, the East Area Rapist and the Diamond Knot Killer). Active from the mid 1970s till the mid 1980s, he committed fifty sexual assaults and at least ten murders. He has never been apprehended.
Thirty years after the last murder, journalist Michelle McNamara (creator of the website TrueCrimeDiary.com) decided to immerse herself in the case of The Golden State Killer and do everything possible to finally uncover his identity. Sadly, the case remains unsolved and Michelle tragically passed away in 2016. Her book was finished with help from her colleagues.
True crime can be difficult to read. Everything in me revolts from the subject matter and yet I am often drawn to these books, almost against my will. That said, I will stop reading a true crime book at the very first hint of exploitative or salacious writing. When I read these books, I really need the author to approach the subject with deference and care and I want to feel as though the victims are treated with utmost respect and empathy. As far as I’m concerned, I’ll be Gone in the Dark is a perfect example of how true crime books should be written.
I have not been this engrossed, or as emotionally invested, in a true crime novel since I read The Fact of a Body by Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich. Of course this is partly due to the detailed research… but I think the true emotional impact of I’ll be Gone in the Dark is owed to the author’s deeply personal writing style. In many ways this book is a memoir as much as a true crime account.
Michelle McNamara is so present in this book – her unwavering dedication to the case and her deep empathy for the victims is palpable on every page. So much heart and humanity went into the research and writing of this book.
With a foreword from bestselling author Gillian Flynn and a heartfelt afterward from actor Patton Oswalt (Michelle McNamara’s husband) this is a very powerful book. I can’t honestly say that I enjoyed reading it – one doesn’t really enjoy this kind of book – but I’m very glad to have read it and feel as though it’s a book that needed to be written. It’s books like this one that keep interest in unsolved cases alive so that one day the truth may be brought to light.
About the Author
Michelle McNamara (1970–2016) was the author of the website True Crime Diary. She earned an MFA in fiction writing from the University of Minnesota, and had sold television pilots to ABC and Fox and a screenplay to Paramount. She also worked as a consultant for Dateline NBC. She lived in Los Angeles, and is survived by her husband, Patton Oswalt, and their daughter, Alice.
'This is a one sit-down read. That’s how riveting it is. I’ll Be Gone in the Dark is the chilling account of an obsessive search for a monster and along the way we are as equally transfixed by the searcher as we are the monster. Very few writers have the skill to bring a decades-old cold case to life; in these pages, Michelle McNamara has not only successfully resuscitated the fascinating case of the Golden State Killer, but done so with humanity, insight, and grace. This is true crime reporting at its best.' –
'I tore through I’ll Be Gone in the Dark in two days. It was so deeply rewarding beyond any ‘solution’ because it's ultimately not just about the Golden State Killer case - it's a portrait of a woman's rich and complicated mind and her immense heart. And it goes a long way to exploring what's too often underexplored: the real connection so many of us - especially women - have with these crimes. This book just knocked me over.' –