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

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

Hey, I know some of you don't like strong language, violence, or sexually explicit content. With that in mind, I've added a helpful table up top detailing whether this book has those things.

As Not to Waste Anyone's Time

Strong Language?

Yes | Infrequent


Yes | Journalistic

Sexually Explicit?

Yes | Journalistic

I'll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara

My Short Synopsis

I'll Be Gone in the Dark is a true crime book written by Michelle McNamara. It was published posthumously and helped shine a light on the dark story of the Golden State Killer (a title coined by McNamara herself to describe the East Area Rapist or Original Night Stalker). It's in part a story about the elusiveness of the violent rapist and murderer who operated in California for more than ten years between the '70s and '80s, and it's also a chronicle of McNamara's own obsession with the case and true crime in general and how that had an effect on her life.

My Review

A Brief Note

I think it's important for me to note that the books I've reviewed so far on this blog, and most of the books I will review in the future, fall somewhere in the fiction category, and they're intended to be read for enjoyment. I'll Be Gone in the Dark is an outlier because it's a true-crime story, and I personally don't believe the word entertaining should be used to describe this kind of media. Of course, true crime can be fascinating and interesting, but it only holds value when it's handled with care. Real lives have been and continue to be seriously impacted by the Golden State Killer.

If you happen to be a true-crime buff or are interested in the genre and would like to learn more about how you can help victims of these violent crimes, check out Crime Stoppers International.

The Review

I'll Be Gone in the Dark does a good job of relaying the details and history of the Golden State Killer without removing focus from the fact that this monster needs to be brought to justice (spoiler: he was identified and arrested after the book's publication). McNamara also does a good job describing law enforcement, victims, and other impacted parties in real terms, admitting her biases and bringing the reader into her thought process instead of simply stating opinions as fact.

This case spans decades, and there's a lot for McNamara to unpack, but I think her book manages to bring the most relevant people, places, and theories to the surface without sacrificing info of greater significance, especially considering she was writing about an unnamed, unknown, shady figure who had yet to be identified. And, the fact that we now have a name and a face doesn't matter much; the journey of I'll Be Gone in the Dark remains compelling.

McNamara helps raise awareness about cold or stagnant cases, provides potential safety lessons, and reminds us there's bad and good in the world, through her work.

My Recommendation

I'd recommend I'll Be Gone in the Dark to new and seasoned true-crime readers who're interested in learning more about the Golden State Killer and reflecting on what these cases really mean. It has solid structure and pacing, but it doesn't read like a dime novel or a sensationalized newspaper article. Grisly details don't appear often and when they do it's for a reason. If you decide to pick up a copy, you can walk away from it with a greater awareness of the good, the bad, and the in-between, which might help you broaden or shift your perspective on life.