If you love true crime and binge-watching Forensic Files, I’ll Be Gone in the Dark is a must read. This is the story of one woman’s obsessive search for the Golden State Killer and it made headlines when, in April, a few months after the books publication, they caught the Golden State Killer! Knowing that Joseph James Deangelo, 72, was arrested for the crime doesn’t make this any less of an interesting read though. If anything, it makes it more. McNamara didn’t “crack” the case but she did put a lot of pressure on the case and did some solid work that really pushed the horrible guy back into the spotlight. And it all paid off in the end. He’s behind bars and going to be there for the rest of his life. But before we start celebrating that, let’s talk about why this is such a great read.
Let’s start with the writing because it is…SPECTACULAR. It draws you into the scene, into the moment, into the emotions of everyone involved. McNamara makes you feel like you are there, watching the Original Night Stalker streak across your back lawn and over your porch. The writing is almost intoxicating. Here’s a quote from the epilogue, a letter to the Golden State Killer, that was highly publicized when he was caught:
I’ve seen photos of the waffle-stomper boot impressions you left in the dirt beneath a teenager girl’s bedroom on July 17, 1976, in Carmichael, a crude relic from a time when voyeurs had no choice but to physically plant themselves in front of windows. You excelled at the stealth sidle. But your heyday prowess has no value anymore. Your skill set has been phased out. The tables have been turned. Virtual windows are opening all around you. You, the master watcher, are an aging, lumbering target in their crosshairs.
I don’t want to spend hours raving about the writing in this book, but I could. But I digress. This book chronicles the crimes of the Golden State Killer methodically. You go into their homes, into their neighborhoods leading up to the crime as the man lurked and watched and prowled. You go into crime scene labs as DNA tests are run and follow suspects as they are eliminated one by one. You meet survivors of the victims, their husbands and their brothers and their mothers and fathers who worked to change the law so that another Golden State Killer wouldn’t get away with his crimes for forty years.
I spend far too much of my free time watching Forensic Files and loved how this book really scratched that itch on the page. The details of the crime scenes, down to the ligature marks and the stolen objects and the tred marks in the wet grass, are amazing. It’s clear the McNamara and her team knew so much about this case and cared about publicizing it and working to solve it and it feels kind of surreal to know that now it has been.