If you remember my tbr from earlier this month, you’ll remember how excited I was to read Michelle McNamara’s book, “I’ll Be Gone In The Dark. Well I have read it and I am back now to review it for you. Let’s get started.
Okay, so before I even opened this book, I already had a huge emotional attachment to it. I had listened to multiple podcasts about the book, and I had also been following the fairly recent capture of “The Golden State Killer,” who was arrested shortly after the publication of “IBGITD” (that’s what I’m going to call it from here on out.) So like I said I had very high hopes. I usually go into my books knowing hardly anything but I went into this one with lots of prior knowledge about the crimes and also the author.
The book is split into three different sections. Part 1: information about the GSK (Golden State Killer), Part 2: Michelle’s experience working on the case, and Part 3: Information from Michelle’s research assistant who helped finish the book after McNamara’s death, an afterword from her husband, and a letter from Michelle to the GSK. This arrangement works well and despite having so many different pieces, flows with surprising ease. I love the fact that they decided not to try to recreate McNamara’s writing style to finish the book because it truly couldn’t have been done. McNamara writes with an emotion and style that is rarely found in true crime. It’s the perfect amount of detail without reading like a report. Her descriptions of California are incredible and she has just the right amount of bluntness in the sections that describe the actual killings. Billy Jensen and Paul Haynes did an incredible job piecing together her research and the parts of the book they had into a complete book of Michelle’s work.
I would not recommend this book if you are at all squeamish about murder. The GSK was a real horror show, and definitely not for the faint of heart. Any gory bits are written with tact and respect but if you are just beginning to delve into true crime, I wouldn’t start with this. It has a novel quality but is packed to the brim with information. The addition of maps, pictures, and a list of the detectives and criminologists that are present throughout the book, make the whole thing a real experience. This book took me the longest to read out of my books this month, and that was mostly because I felt I needed to absorb everything. I annotate all my books but if anyone tries to borrow this one, they might have a hard time reading the book under all my hand scribbled thoughts. I think that’s a sign that a book is good. If it takes up your whole brain.
If you haven’t guessed by now, I gave this book five out of five stars. It has been added to my list of all time favorites. I only had one grievance about the book and that is that it’s not really THE book. The whole time I read, I couldn’t stop asking myself if this was the book Michelle McNamara wanted me to read. I think it is definitely close. It was put together by people that knew her very well, but there was still so many things that she wanted to put in and unfortunately didn’t get to because of her untimely death. I wish she would have been alive to see how well it did, and see him get caught right after her book came out. I admit I teared up at the end when reading the afterword written by her late husband. In it he says she was “quietly, effortlessly, original,” and I think that shows in her writing and in her commitment to finding the GSK.
The GSK was a true monster. As Michelle states in one of my favorite lines, “the act…was arousal alchemized to hate, a vicious punishment meted out by one judge: his corroded brain.” In summary this is a book about a monster written by a hero. She helped so many victims through her work, and helped to solve one of the biggest unsolved cases in America. Although her time with us was short, she achieved more than a lot of people in this world ever will. I think this book is a treasure. It could have been lost to time, forever sitting on a dusty hard drive. I considered reading this a privilege and it is a book I will not soon forget.
If you want to see what I thought of the rest of the books I read this month, make sure to check back on Monday for my February wrap-up post!