A Thousand Steps

A Thousand Steps
A Thousand Steps by T. Jefferson Parker

Thursday, March 29, 2018

I'll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman's Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer by Michelle McNamara- Feature and Review


Introduction by Gillian Flynn
Afterword by Patton Oswalt

A masterful true crime account of the Golden State Killer—the elusive serial rapist turned murderer who terrorized 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 favored 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 recognize 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.


      MY REVIEW:

 I'll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman's Obsessive Search for the Golden State KillerI'll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman's Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer by Michelle McNamara
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman's Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer by Michelle McNamara is a 2018 Harper publication.

No butler, no second maid, no blood upon the stair. No eccentric aunt, no gardener, no family friend smiling among the bric-a-brac-and murder. Only a suburban house with the front door open and a dog barking at a squirrel, and the cars passing. The corpse quite dead. The wife in Florida. Consider the clues: the potato masher in a vase, the torn photograph of a Wesleyan basketball team, scattered with the check stubs in the hall; the unsent fan letter to Shirley Temple, the Hoover button on the lapel of the deceased, the note: ‘To be killed this way is quite all right with me.” Small wonder the case remains unsolved, or that the sleuth. Le Roux is now incurably insane, and sits alone in a white room in a white gown, screaming that the world is mad, that clues lead nowhere, or to walls so high their tops cannot be seen; Screaming all day of war, screaming that nothing can be solved- Weldon Kees, “Crime Club”

What a fitting epigraph!

This book sincerely scared the crap out of me. I grew up in the seventies, one of the creepiest decades, filled with terrifying serial killers and rapists, but I was not familiar with this case. This book reminded me of how taut the atmosphere was in those days, as the author details her hunt for a prolific serial rapist, which eventually escalated to murder, who went on a virtually unchecked rape and murder spree in California in the seventies.

The author dubbed the killer ‘The Golden State Killer’, as she slowly pieced together the evidence and the many victims, working tirelessly to put a face and a name to the moniker she’d give him. Michelle was a true crime journalist, who started the website, ‘TrueCrimeDiary.com, as this case became an obsession with her.

The crime wave and the horrifying details sent chills down my spine and made the hair stand up on the back of my neck on more than one occasion. The rapist was smart, and planned his attack down to the smallest detail, having stalked the unsuspecting victims for a good while, knowing them intimately before making his move.

Eventually, the crimes ceased, but no one knows exactly why. The author has her theories, and I would have to agree with her assessment.

The disheartening thing here is the feeling that McNamara was closing in, making progress, despite the roadblocks, setbacks, and dead ends that comes with this type of investigation. As everyone knows, Michelle died before this book was completed, which adds yet another haunting layer to this book.

Her passion seeps through the pages, along with her single- minded determination, that did border on obsession. I can see how that could happen, as this case was never solved and there is a sense of urgency about the book. The clock is ticking, and the feeling is one of being ‘so close, yet so far’, with time is running out for justice.

Michelle's private life musings, added a more personal touch, something that might not always come off so well in the true crime arena, but I think the author was attempting to share with readers how her obsession and desire to see the case solved influenced and bled over into her personal life, taking up her every waking thought. It lends a poignancy, and occasionally a little humor, to the book that does offset the gruesome revelations unearthed about the crimes and the victims.

One quick note about how the book was written, since it was published posthumously, and Michelle had not completed the book before her death. It is my understanding that her lead researchers pieced the book together using what Michelle had already written, along with her extensive notes. Unfortunately, the organization, and presentation, is not great. In true crime, disorganization is a huge pet peeve of mine and I would, under ordinary circumstances, have been more than a little exasperated and disappointed. In this case, I was a lot more forgiving, but I still think someone should have polished it up a little better. I would not let that deter you from reading this book, however, as, despite the bumpy ride, it is still quite an effective read.

Unless you have nerves of steel, I don’t recommend reading this book alone at night, because it will certainly give you the heebie jeebies. But, I do hope the book generates enough attention that someone might come forward with new information or will pick up the torch and continue the search for the elusive ‘Golden State Killer’.





Michelle McNamara was a screenwriter, journalist and true crime writer. She was the founder of the website True Crime Diary. The site covers lesser-known crimes and cold cases. In 2005, she married comedian Patton Oswalt. They had one daughter together, born in 2009.

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