I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: Michelle McNamara


Michelle McNamara’s I’ll Be Gone in the Dark is the sharply personal and detailed true crime historical retelling of the horrific crimes committed by the Golden State Killer from 1974 to 1986.

I'll Be Gone in the Dark, Michelle McNamara

The Golden State Killer began his criminal career by burglarizing and peeping. He quickly moved on to assaulting and raping the unlucky female homeowners, and finally escalated to murder of at least thirteen Californians.

Michelle McNamara’s true crime expertise began when she created a blog that dug into various cold cases. When she encountered the East Area Rapist’s (now known as the Golden State Killer, coined by Michelle because, as it turns out, he didn’t restrict himself to only Sacramento) cold case, she was enthralled by his uncanny ability to evade arrest. She went on to commit the literal rest of her life to bringing this monster to justice – Michelle died suddenly in her sleep before the completion of her book.

Content Warning

Please take caution while reading I’ll Be Gone in the Dark if any of the following topics may trigger you:

  • Sexual assault
  • Violence
  • Death / dying
  • Blood

My Thoughts

I absolutely LOVE learning about serial killers; I find them grossly fascinating. This book covers every aspect of the Golden State Killer’s crimes, including in-depth looks at his victims and the circumstances of their lives and the nights they were attacked. McNamara has a knack for humanizing the victims, writing in an almost story-telling style.

McNamara powerfully weaves her own life stories and honest retellings of her utter obsession with the Golden State Killer’s case throughout the historical retelling of his crimes. She is painfully honest with her past, her relationships, and her single-mindedness. These pieces of the book are, for me, the most compelling.

I was very excited to learn about the Golden State Killer, but it’s hard to learn about a person who is unknown and unnamed. I find that the most interesting parts of a serial killer’s story are what led them to their violence, and because this monster was yet to be found, the book was missing all of that. We do get glimpses into his mental stability through victims’ retellings, but this information pales in comparison to the other various facts we’re provided throughout the book.

High-level information about the Golden State Killer’s crimes are written about ad nauseam. Locations, dates, police procedural information, and victim and detective names are in abundance and, in my opinion, take away from the overall success of the book.

McNamara’s writing style is utterly compelling and at times during the book were entrancing and breathtaking. The essential information dump of much of the rest of the book, however, took away from the story and the exquisite writing. As an aside, I was told that this book is very scary, but I did not find it to be scary – I very well may be desensitized to this kind of information, however, because I seek it out. Ultimately, I found I’ll Be Gone in the Dark interesting and worth reading, but I was relieved when I finished it.

Thank you for taking the time to read my thoughts on I’ll Be Gone in the Dark. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the novel in the comments or at my Instagram, @bookmarkedbya.

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