Golden State Thriller

 I spent the entire time completely frightened. I don't have a fear of flying...it was scary because of what I was reading. I'll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman's Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer by Michelle McNamara

A new bestselling investigative search for a serial killer that will keep you transfixed.

Scared on a Plane

I was recently on a flight for 10 hours and I spent the entire time completely frightened. I don't have a fear of flying...it was scary because of what I was reading. I'll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman's Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer by Michelle McNamara was downloaded on my iPhone via Overdrive and even though I couldn't be farther away from the Golden State Killer himself (if you've been watching the news, the newly discovered main suspect is in jail in Sacramento) I was getting totally creeped out. Yet, I couldn't stop reading: I finished the entire book in one sitting.

Stalking a Serial Killer

Author Michelle McNamara
Author Michelle McNamara

McNamara died before she could finish the book, partly because she had been taking and mixing many anti-anxiety medications while suffering from an undiagnosed heart condition. She spent all her time consumed by research, trying to figure out how the killer was. It was stimulating, obsessive work, and she was prone to being frightened by what she was uncovering. An amateur detective of sorts, McNamara didn't live to finish her book--or witness the miraculous recent capture of suspect Joseph James DeAngelo.

From 1974 to 1986, the Golden State Killer terrorized California with murders, rapes, and burglaries occurring everywhere from Contra Costa County down to Ventura County. A uncovering of pristine original crime scene material, along online ancestry database searches, and the suspect's matching DNA has made the case against DeAngelo pretty strong.

Amateurs and the Internet

In McNamara's book, you read about how her interest in true crime started as a child in Oak Park, Illinois. You follow her as she focuses in on the cases of the East Bay Rapist (also known as the Original Night Stalker) and the Visalia Ransacker (now thought to be the same person). In fact, she coined the name "The Golden State Killer." She interviews detectives, relatives of victims, and digs into boatloads of case files. It's a fascinating journey, and often one is struck by how the internet allows a private citizen to access enough data to successfully play detective. As she points out in the book, there are many message boards for amateur sleuths who spend much of their lives to cold cases.

Researching the Case In the Library

As a librarian, one particularly interesting part is when McNamara consults the librarian tool-of-the-trade, WorldCat. A detective, Larry Crompton, once published a book called Sudden Terror, published by a small press, with a very limited print run. During her research, using WorldCat, McNamara figured out that public libraries in only three states had the book on their shelves. (Currently, copies are available at more libraries throughout the country, presumably due to renewed interest in the case.) Though she couldn't access information regarding who checked out the books due to library privacy policies, the information did lead her along a path in her research.

She was trying to determine if the Golden State Killer himself had requested the book at his local library, to read up on himself.

Highly Recommended, If You Dare

If you're looking for a new thriller--and can stomach the fact that this is all true stuff that happened in our backyard--you'll dig this book. I've had my Half Moon Bay Senior Mystery Book Club asking to read this because they want to keep up with the forthcoming trial of DeAngelo.

And McNamara is a great writer; she weaves a fine narrative out of all this research, loose ends, and mysterious history. Despite the fact that she never finished the book herself, her husband, comedian Patton Oswald, made sure to hire a two person team, Paul Haynes and Billy Jensen, to complete the book. The result is a unique and compelling story about not just the Golden State Killer, but the amateur sleuth who never gave up trying to find him.

I'll Be Gone in the Dark (Book)

I'll Be Gone in the Dark (eBook)

I'll Be Gone in the Dark (Audiobook CD)

I'll Be Gone in the Dark (Downloadable Audiobook)

Have you read I'll Be Gone in the Dark? Tell us your thoughts below.

We welcome your respectful and on-topic comments and questions in this limited public forum. To find out more, please see Appropriate Use When Posting Content. Community-contributed content represents the views of the user, not those of San Mateo County Libraries