I found a kindred spirit in Michelle McNamara. She sat up late at night, pouring over cold case files, cross referencing eye witness accounts of a serial killer and rapist who had eluded capture for over forty years. Similarly, I often take late night deep dives into Wikipedia pages about unsolved crimes...
Okay, so maybe what we do isn't exactly the same. Michelle McNamara is the ultimate amateur sleuth. She fought incredibly hard to solve the mystery of the Golden State Killer, and unfortunately, passed away a few years before his capture. However, her diligence and hard work helped shine a spotlight on these crimes, and I don't think it is any coincidence that the crack in the cold case came around the same time as the publication of her book.
Michelle's passion for the Golden State Killer case was palpable in every page of her book. The language and descriptions were so lush I could almost forget I was reading non-fiction. (And the case is so terrifying that I often wished I wasn't reading non-fiction.) It has now been weeks since I've read the book, and I still catch myself looking over my shoulder when I walk through a dark room and double checking I've locked all the doors before going to bed at night. And I was lucky enough to get my hands on a copy of the book one day AFTER Joseph James DeAngelo was arrested and charged with being the Golden State Killer. I can't imagine how afraid I would have been if I'd read this book while he was still walking free. She truly puts the reader in the mind of the people living in the neighborhoods the killer stalked. While reading I found myself hunkering down beneath the covers and stopping to listen to every distant noise, wondering whether someone wasn't prowling just outside my window.
Ultimately, I could gush on and on about Michelle McNamara's insane writing talent, the awestruck horror with which I read about the details of the Golden State Killer's crimes, and the beautiful way she wove her own life story into the narrative, creating a true crime/memoir mashup; however, it will do to simply tell you that you must read this book. McNamara writes about the most depraved among us, while also being a beacon of hope and humanity. I will not be surprised to see I'll Be Gone in the Dark topping the lists as one of the best true crime novels of all time.