I avoided “I’ll Be Gone in the Dark” for ages, despite it being wildly successful, purely because I was scared of the content within. True Crime books are not my area of enjoyment as I struggle to read for pleasure about the unfortunate lives of real people, and often I find true crime related materials to be heavy on the gore and violence, which makes sense considering the circumstances around the events. Needless to say, this book wasn’t one that I had planned on skyrocketing up my want to read list, but my book discussion group chose it as a read for September, so I gave it a shot.
This has to be the best True Crime book I’ve ever read. Granted I don’t have an extensive back catalog to pull from, but I was blown away by the mastery and compassion that flowed through this book. Michelle McNamara never skips on the details, but she also never uses shock value or disgust to get her point across. The Golden State Killer raped over 50 women and yet I don’t think this book would be a particularly triggering read for those who have lived through sexual violence. Obviously I cannot speak on everyone’s behalf, but a friend asked if I thought the descriptions of the rapes would be an issue, and I honestly think McNamara’s treatment of this violence is one of the things I loved most about the book. She doesn’t sugar coat it; this man committed heinous acts. But she doesn’t describe them and make you feel as though you’re reliving trauma. She states the facts and gives you some history regarding the women involved, that way when she uses a phrase like “she was then raped.” That’s it. There’s no description of the violence because you’ve already connected with the survivor through her story and the line alone is enough to effect you emotionally. It’s masterful stuff.
McNamara discusses her journey through trying to figure out who the Golden State Killer was, not for fame or glory, but to bring peace to those he has victimized. Though she discusses the effects the case has on her personal life, it never feels as if the book is about her, or had been written to fulfill some egocentric need. It honestly reads like the tale of someone who is searching for justice and loves a good mystery, and somehow makes the story compelling and emotional. I was shocked by how talented a writer McNamara was, as as sad as I am that she never lived to see the killer brought to justice, I am equally as devastated that readers will not be able to consume any more of her work.
Absolute must read for anyone even remotely interested in this book!
Title: I’ll Be Gone in the Dark
Author: Michelle McNamara
Three Descriptors: Haunting, Compelling, Well-Researched
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