Sunday, 29 April 2018

Book Review: I'll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara

A portrait of a woman's obsession and her unflagging pursuit of the truth. I'll Be Gone in the Dark is the masterpiece that Michelle McNamara was working on when she tragically passed away in 2016. It's a chilling account of a criminal mastermind, The Golden State Killer, and the wreckage he left behind.

"This is how it ends for you. "You'll be silent forever, and I'll be gone in the dark," you threatened a victim once. Open the door. Show us your face. Walk into the light."

This was one of those surreal reading experiences that I'll never forget. I had been dying to get to this one, I needed a true crime fix, and so I decided on to start it on the Saturday. I was about halfway through when I woke up to the news on the following Wednesday that they had captured the suspected Golden State Killer. Cue obsessive scrolling through twitter all day and waiting impatiently for the news conference that evening. Prior to his capture, I felt intense disgust, rage and frustration that this man was still potentially walking the streets (Michelle was convinced he wasn't in jail or dead). As I read through the timeline of his crimes and ways in which he tortured and terrified his victims, I had a few restless nights.

Coming into contact with someone like him is my worst nightmare. Home is where you're supposed to feel safe. He often tracked and watched his victims prior to attacking, working out their schedules and how he could discretely get inside the house to carry out his intention of rape and/or murder. You'd be woken up by a flashlight shining in your face in the middle of the night and subsequently tied up so that he could do what he wanted with you. What made it even more terrifying for me was that he wasn't put off by the presence of a male partner. He would just force the female to tie her partner up before dealing with the female himself. He would often balance plates or similar items on the partner's back so that he would hear if the husband dared move while he raped his wife. So, yeah, I guess I was pretty disturbed.

To then hear that this personification of evil had potentially been identified and arrested completely changed the reading experience for me. I mean, I was still appalled at what I was reading, but at least I could feel some happiness in that he would be brought to justice for what he done to so many people and their families. But I am honestly tired of talking about this serial rapist and murderer. The real takeaway from this book is the character of Michelle McNamara. Her determination, her courage, her spirit,  her tenacity, her humanity - I could list all of her admirable traits until I am blue in the face. She brought true crime writing to another level and I am truly devastated that we will never get another true crime novel from her, she really would have changed the entire game.

I know the investigative team have yet to attribute any of the credit of his identification and capture to McNamara's work, but if you've read the book and if you have any semblance of the spotlight that she focused on this lesser-known serial rapist/murderer, then you know that is bullshit. She kept the story alive and brought an urgency to solving the case. Michelle knew the answer lay within those online genetic profiles on genealogical sites and that is ultimately how he was identified.

I loved this book, it was chilling and terrifying, but there was a light within it, and that light was Michelle. Even if you're a not a true crime fan, I would highly recommend this book. It's heartbreaking, yet inspiring and I only wish Michelle had been here to see the bastard finally go down.


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