Terrifying. This book is absolutely terrifying, and I’m so glad I read it now, after the killer has finally been caught, rather than when it was released a few years ago. I just wish the author, Michelle McNamara, was still alive to see him finally in custody.
I used to read and watch a lot of true crime books and documentaries in my early 20’s, dreaming of a career in criminal profiling or similar where I could spend my time catching evil and making sure it didn’t have a chance to act again. I haven’t had much of a stomach for it for many years now though, especially since becoming a mother, my heart always fearing the worst in people. But Michelle McNamara was a brilliant true crime writer and researcher, and I’ll Be Gone In The Dark is a perfect balance between information on the cases, memoir, and story, making it very readable, and yes, terrifying, but also interesting.
(What makes it all the more terrifying is that I now live in Sacramento and know a lot of the places mentioned, and even lived in Carmichael for a bit, the place they considered to be the area where the serial rapist and killer lived in the 70’s).
From the late 70’s to the late 80’s, communities in the Sacramento, East Bay, and Southern California areas were plagued by groups of crimes that for a long time were not connected to each other. A spate of brutal house invasions and rapes in Sacramento and the East Bay, followed by home invasions/rapes/brutal murders in Southern California, and then nothing, as if the criminal(s) just disappeared into thin air. It took investigators quite a while, years, to realize that all of these crimes were actually committed by the same person, thanks to both DNA and dogged research and investigation by people who just couldn’t give up. Michelle McNamara spent years collecting information from sheriff departments, witnesses, law enforcement, online message boards etc, to compile a profile of the person she named the Golden State Killer (he was given different names in different areas) and this book is the fruit of her research. Sadly she died in her sleep in 2016 and this book was published posthumously.
Last year the Sacramento DA held a press conference to announce that they had found and arrested the alleged Golden State Killer/East Area Rapist thanks to genealogical DNA matches. Joseph James DeAngelo is now being held without bail and has been charged with the murders of at least 10 people and other charges. Unfortunately the statute of limitations has passed in the vicious rape crimes he committed, but hopefully he will be properly convicted for the entire reign of terror that he caused for a whole decade in California. It’s terrifying, and fascinating, that he was able to allude authorities and capture for decades... I’m sure he will never speak about it, but I’m glad the victims and survivors will finally (hopefully) get some closure.
Some chapters of the book feel a little unfinished, but in the light of the author’s death it makes sense, and doesn’t really create any issues with the continuity or reading ease. Michelle McNamara was both a brilliant writer and investigator.