I’ll Be Gone In The Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search For The Golden State Killer, by Michelle McNamara
This book is an unsettling one, a book about a series of cold cases and the thus far unsuccessful efforts to solve it so far as well as a book about the obsession that amateur sleuths have with solving mysteries, an obsession I happen to personally have at least a little of myself. Of course, I read this book late at night, which for fairly obvious reasons was probably not the best idea, but that happened to be the time I had available to do so. The book is admittedly a bit fragmentary, but that happened because the case is a cold one and the author writes in a compelling but blog-inspired fashion, and also because the author died in 2016 and left the book incomplete, just like the case itself. This particular case deals both with the specific cases, more than 50 of them, that have been tied to a single serial killer/rapist known variously as the East Area Rapist, the Original Night Stalker, and as the Golden State Killer, the name the author herself coined him with, as well as with some of the issues that are related in the solving of cold cases in general and the way that DNA evidence, while it has brought quite a few cases together that were seen previously in isolation, has not solved these cases because the killer has so far managed to avoid having himself tied with the DNA that was recovered in various scenes.
This book is a sizable one at more than 300 pages and it begins with a timeline map, a cast of characters, and an introduction by Gillian Flynn as well as a prologue. After that the first part of the book moves between various scenes and shows the actions of the East Area rapist and various cases that show his patterns as well as some of the harrowing detail gathered by survivors and fleeting eyewitnesses. The second part of the book consists of reports of the author and others she has met in order to solve these various cases, which has involved reading case files, interviewing survivors, pondering the methods of evidence gathering and the way that one can solve cold cases by looking at history, by examining the vulnerabilities in the past of a criminal who had not yet mastered his craft. It does appear that even though the Golden State Killer has not been found yet, there are a number of very promising aspects, including the possibility that he had a plane and worked in the development of property and had a male 6th grade teacher, by no means a common thing, and appears to have blended his criminal behavior with his work commute as well as his studies at Sac State. Finally, the third part of the book is a brief discussion of what leads the author was seeking to follow before her death as well as an afterword by the author’s widower and an epilogue that expresses the author’s confidence that the Golden State Killer will eventually be brought to justice.
As a whole, this book is dark and fascinating, but it does express a sincere and generally successful attempt to get into the mind of a serial killer/rapist, to show the killer’s interest in condemning women for certain wrongs that he felt himself subject to combined with a seething range and an ability to appear normal and blend into the general society around him. It does appear, though, that there are enough clues and enough of a pattern that the Golden State Killer will eventually be caught. The most chilling moment about the book is the author’s talk about an abortive attempt on the part of the Golden State Killer to rape a woman after her and her husband were tied up where they ran out of the house in Goleta where the killer was *almost* caught by the police, after which he went from home invasion rapes to murders so as not to leave anyone alive, a ratcheting up in violence that makes his continued freedom so deeply bothersome to those who want to help solve this case. With the help of this book, and perhaps the insights of some others, the case will be solved at last.