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.

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

4/5 stars.
ebook, 144 pages.
Read from September 05 to 06, 2014.

Drop that vampire/werewolf paranormal YA novel you’re reading now and pick this one up. Better yet, share it with any teenagers you know as this is one of those YA books that is extremely relevant and very important. Rape. This book is about rape and the dire psychological effects that it can cause on a young teen and how so many victims and their stories go unheard for the wrong reasons. What makes this book so important is that Melinda’s story is not a one-off case. Situations like hers happen every single day and we need books like Speak to educate and to ensure that other victims are not silenced the way she was.

Melinda’s first year in high school isn’t going as planned. The people she called friends for years are no longer talking to her and the whole school knows that she called the cops at during one of the biggest parties of the summer, an event, that no one appears willing to forgive. What no one knows is the real reason that Melinda called the police that night. This book details Melinda’s painstaking struggles and daily events during the year that followed her rape. Over time, Melinda gets quieter and quieter as she tries to bury her secret further.

I was reading this book so quickly because it was causing me severe anxiety that Melinda had told no one what actually had happened to her. Every chapter provide a bit more details about what actually happened that night and I kept thinking that, maybe this time, she would share her experience with someone, anyone! That’s how effective the narrative is. Your anxiety increases just as Melinda’s does the longer she keeps her secret. Melinda is so unbelievably strong and brave; some of the experiences she had to endure were so hard to read! Thankfully the ending is so very rewarding an relieving.

This book is so well written that it appeals to teenagers and adults and its message is undeniable. It teaches people to talk to their children about these types of situations, how teachers can watch for signs of this kind of disturbance and most of all it shows any victim of rape that it is never their fault, that the guilt is not theirs, that they are not alone and how important it is to tell someone and get the support that you need. A highly recommended and inspiring read!