I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara

“You’ll be silent forever, and I’ll be gone in the dark.”

3/5 stars.
Hardcover, 328 pages.
Read from May 17th, 2018 to May 28th, 2018.

Why don’t I read more true crime novels? It is a question that I never thought to ask myself until now and even I don’t really have the answer to. I adore watching crime documentaries and programs so why not books? Michelle actually said it best:

“I love reading true crime, but I’ve always been aware of the fact that, as a reader, I am actively choosing to be a consumer of someone else’s tragedy. So like any responsible consumer, I try to be careful in the choices I make. I read only the best: writers who are dogged, insightful, and humane.”

This book became an overnight sensation as the author, Michelle NcNamara, passed away before completing it. In life, Michelle was married to Patton Oswalt, a famous comedian. Michelle’s abrupt and unexpected death hit Patton very hard. He decided to finish his wife’s obsession and life’s work with the help of a few others with the remaining data that Michelle had left.

If you had not heard of the Golden State Killer before the publication of this book, I am sure that you have now as this book has brought to light a cold case that has (had) evaded authorities for decades. The Golden State Killer paralyzed Northern Californa in the 70s and 80s by committing a suspected 50 rapes. He had a routine of breaking into peoples homes where they are supposed to feel safe and was not deterred if the woman’s partner was present, in fact, that seemed to become his preference later on. The Golden State Killer got his nickname, coined by the author later on, when he took his crimes to the southern part of the state and committed 12 spine-chilling rapes and murders.

Michelle became obsessed with tracking down the Golden State Killer. She interviewed and befriended detectives that had worked the case previously and scrupulously reviewed all previous evidence with the use of modern technology and the wonders of the internet.

“That summer I hunted the serial killer at night from my daughter’s playroom. For the most part I mimicked the bedtime routine of a normal person. Teeth brushed. Pajamas on. But after my husband and daughter fell asleep, I’d retreat to my makeshift workspace and boot up my laptop, that fifteen-inch-wide hatch of endless possibilities…”

This book, at least the sections that were written by Michelle herself, are about her journey and obsession to track down this horrible murderer and rapist. Michelle’s intrigue into crime came from an incident that happened in her own hometown and from there Michelle fell in love with true crime. Michelle talks about how strange it is to be obsessed with something so morbid and to try and escape the fear and hate that it creates when dealing with such horrific acts caused by a man.

“I love my husband. I hate men.”

The sections of the book that Michelle wrote are intimate, gripping and full of the talent and passion that she truly possessed. Had she been able to complete this book on her own I have no doubt that its literary merit along with its exquisitely detailed research would have landed Michelle an award. However, because she passed before finishing this book the story feels unfinished and disjointed. Incomplete. But perhaps it is best left that way.

Michelle’s efforts with this book helped bring new light to the Golden State Killer case and shortly after the book was published, Joeseph DeAngelo was arrested for the crimes.

“The Daily Beast was the first to report that DeAngelo was the suspect arrested after an interview with journalist Billy Jensen, who worked with researchers on a book about the crimes, I’ll Be Gone in the DarkThe book was written by Michelle McNamara, who died before it was published. It was finished by Jensen, researcher Paul Haynes, and McNamara’s husband, the comedian and actor Patton Oswalt.” – The Daily Beast – April 25, 2017

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Joeseph DeAngelo in court in Sacramento. Image credit The LA Times: https://lat.ms/2tvWy5I.

Michelle was using online ancestry websites to help try and find a DNA match. The police authorities were also using this method but not in the way you might think. They were using the websites the same way you or I would use them as they did not additional or special access to the databases. Companies who own these ancestry-type websites claim privacy laws won’t allow police to access their data for investigative purposes. Police authorities were able to connect Joseph DeAngelo to the case through the DNA of a relative on one of these ancestry websites.  Begging the question, should police have access to these types of DNA and ancestry websites for active investigations?

While I am disappointed with how unfinished this novel feels I am still glad to have read it as I am sure it will go down in true crime history. For those that are considering reading it, approach the book with the understanding that this is not the perfect novel that Michelle would have envisioned but appreciate the pieces of her that she left within in the novel and her admirable efforts to help track down and imprison this abominable killer.

Dark Places by Gillian Flynn

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4/5 stars.
Read from January 14 to 20, 2013.
ebook, 452 pages.

Another throw back review! I wanted to include this review on my blog as I have now finished reading all of three of Gillian Flynn’s novels and when I write up my last review I want to size them up against each other. Dark Places was my first book by Gillian Flynn, and is by far my favourite. Read in 2013:


 

Well, this book caught me off guard! I really didn’t enjoy the first fifty pages of this book because the characters were so despicable and miserable! I could not find any basis of relation to them and therefore didn’t really cared what happened to them. That however quickly changed.

Libby, as a child, becomes the lone survivor of a mass murder that affected her entire family. The murder was spattered over every piece of media and was a big deal for a lot of years. As a reader, you entire the story when Libby is an adult and has been living off money from the fame of her families murder. While you initially feel sorry for her it quickly fades when you realize that she is kind of despicable and has done absolutely nothing with her life. She just seemed to accept that her own brother Ben was responsible for the crime and  that he was everything the media claimed he was.  It’s not until she runs of money that she gets involved with a fanatical group of people who are interested in famous and gruesome murders that she really starts to wonder what happened and begins to unravel her past and back to that horrible day.

I believe that Flynn really captures the innate curiosity that people have with “dark places”, the unknown, as well as how far human anguish can be pushed, and the limits in which people’s wills and can be stretched. What initially kept me going through this book, was this fascination. I really wanted to know if everything that was being said about Ben was true, not because I cared about Ben or Libby at the moment, but rather I wanted to actually envision a person that was legitimately capable of performing such a murder and I wanted to know as much about the inner workings of this person as much as possible. As the story continued to unfold I did find myself beginning to feel empathy for the characters, and that, mixed with this curiosity made for one hell of a dynamite book.

This novel is what the counterpart to a true crime novel would legitimately look like if it were written honestly. The true story, not the Hollywood sob story, of a victim of a horrendous crime; the remains of a broken human being that has never moved on and refused to accept her past. This is Libby. When Libby really started to actually deal with her horrifying past, is really when the novel starts to kick off and the ending is so rewarding after reading about how lifeless and miserable of a person she was. I found that in the end, this book is truly about redemption and forgiveness, not just of others or what has happened but forgiving ones self.

Beyond all that though, this novel is a killer mystery! I thought I had it somewhat figured who the killer was, though I wasn’t sure of the motive at the time, I was so stunned with what actually unfolded and the series of events the brought it all about. Wow!

Highly recommended for mystery lovers and those who like psychological thrillers! I look forward to picking up her other novels.