I'll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman's Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer

I'll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman's Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer


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Features new material on the Golden State Killer's case and an updated afterword by Patton Oswalt.



Washington Post | Maureen Corrigan, NPR | Paste | Seattle Times | Entertainment Weekly | Esquire | Slate | Buzzfeed | Jezebel | Philadelphia Inquirer | Publishers Weekly | Kirkus Reviews | Library Journal | Bustle | Mother Jones | Real Simple | Crime Reads | Book Riot | Bookish | Amazon | Barnes and Noble |Hudson Booksellers New York Public Library | Chicago Public Library

Winner of the Goodreads Choice Awards for Nonfiction | SCIBA Book Award Winner | Longlisted for the Carnegie Medal for Excellence

The haunting true story of the elusive serial rapist turned murderer who terrorized California during the 70s and 80s, and of the gifted journalist who died tragically while investigating the case—which was solved in April 2018.

Introduction by Gillian Flynn • Afterword by Patton Oswalt

“A brilliant genre-buster.... Propulsive, can’t-stop-now reading.”   —Stephen King

For more than ten years, a mysterious and violent predator committed fifty sexual assaults in Northern California before moving south, where he perpetrated ten sadistic murders. Then he disappeared, eluding capture by multiple police forces and some of the best detectives in the area.

Three decades later, Michelle McNamara, a true crime journalist who created the popular website TrueCrimeDiary.com, was determined to find the violent psychopath she called "the Golden State Killer." Michelle pored over police reports, interviewed victims, and embedded herself in the online communities that were as obsessed with the case as she was.

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark—the masterpiece McNamara was writing at the time of her sudden death—offers an atmospheric snapshot of a moment in American history and a chilling account of a criminal mastermind and the wreckage he left behind. It is also a portrait of a woman’s obsession and her unflagging pursuit of the truth. Utterly original and compelling, it has been hailed as a modern true crime classic—one which fulfilled Michelle's dream: helping unmask the Golden State Killer.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780062319791
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 02/26/2019
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 368
Sales rank: 3,130
Product dimensions: 5.30(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Michelle McNamara (1970–2016) was the author of the website True Crime Diary. She earned an MFA in fiction writing from the University of Minnesota, and had sold television pilots to ABC and Fox and a screenplay to Paramount. She also worked as a consultant for Dateline NBC. She lived in Los Angeles and is survived by her husband, Patton Oswalt, and their daughter, Alice.

Table of Contents

Time Line Map ix

Cast of Characters xi

Introduction Gillian Flynn xiii

Prologue 1

Part 1

Irvine, 1981 9

Dana Point, 1980 21

Hollywood, 2009 27

Oak Park 31

Sacramento, 1976-1977 51

Visalia 85

Orange County, 1996 99

Irvine, 1986 107

Ventura, 1980 117

Goleta, 1979 123

Goleta, 1981 129

Orange County, 2000 147

Contra Costa, 1997 155

Part 2

Sacramento, 2012 169

East Sacramento, 2012 177

The Cuff-Links Coda 187

Los Angeles, 2012 191

Contra Costa, 2013 197

Concord 197

San Ramon 209

Danville 218

Walnut Creek 234

Davis 241

Fred Ray 255

The One 261

Los Angeles, 2014 273

Sacramento, 2014 277

Sacramento, 1978 281

Part 3 By Paul Haynes and Billy Jensen 283

Afterword Patton Oswalt 317

Epilogue: Letter to an Old Man 323

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I'll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman's Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 38 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I had never heard of the GSK, and I would consider myself slightly obsessed, or at least deeply fascinated, with true crime stories. I am so glad I picked this up, I literally spent every free moment devouring it and now I just want to know more. I love Michelle's writing style, it really draws you in and keeps you hooked. My only complaint is how heartbreaking it is that there will never be a follow up from her. She was an amazing writer who made this story come to life and kept me wondering if she'd find him (even though I started the book knowing she passed before it was finished). The world is truly missing an incredible writer who brings so much humanity to such a depressing subject/genre. Entirely worth the read; going to go check the Cold Case Files message boards now, thanks for the new addiction, Michelle.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The subject is fascinating, most serial crimes are, but these mess with your head. I completely understand the author's obsession. The crimes are real but the book reads like a fast paced novel. Give yourself a treat, and buy this book!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Well documented logical research that hopeful motivates the next crime mystery investigator to finish the job. Thanks to Michelle's family for sharing her insight and life with us.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I did not buy this book until it was announced that this monster has been arrested. Rather than wait for the details of the ending i read thisbook. It is very well written. Now i cannot wait for the final chapter of this sad story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Any fan of true crime should read this fascinating and extremely well written book. Even without the recent arrest of a suspect, this book is spellbinding. With the recent arrest, it is background on all the investigations, investigators, procedures and technology available decades ago and now, and all the years of dedication all the people involved invested in getting this 'person' off the streets. The death of the author was so sudden and unexpected and I find I am pissed off that she will not be able to see the result of all her hard work. I am grateful that I found out about her and her exhaustive work on this case. I am saddened that there will be no more books from her. I hope her friends in the police community know and acknowledge how much she contributed to the arrest of a suspect in the Golden State Killer case. I also hope her fans will continue her journey and never give up hope that the next clue will be The One!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loved the book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Excellent book; kept wanting to return to the reading every spare moment. Curious to know more details about this sinister person who hurt and killed so many and is still not found.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Left me wanting to know more! But I am not a researcher, so I guess I will have to wait till someone finds him, and adds on to the book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
As a life-long Sacramento resident, this book hits close to home. The author's insights were so amazing, I wish I had known about her prior to her death. I absolutely recommend this book to anyone fascinated with the true crime genre.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The fact that the probable GSK is now in custody make a great book in this genre even better. The suspect appears to be consistent with and yet defy the speculations and theories of who this guy could be. The author pulls you into her own obsession brilliantly.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
She really did an exceptional work, now that he is caught; we will know accuracy of her investigation. Genius
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Michelle had the heart and mind of a true lawman with justice as her center
SheTreadsSoftly More than 1 year ago
I'll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman's Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer by Michelle McNamara is a very highly recommended true crime account of the serial rapist and killer who was responsible for fifty sexual assaults and at least ten murders in California during the 1970s and '80s. Michelle McNamara was a true crime journalist who created the popular website TrueCrimeDiary.com. She started writing about the predator she called "The Golden State Killer" in 2011. At that time DNA testing had already linked the cases to one unknown man. The man began as a serial rapist in the 1970s before changing his M.O. and began murdering couples. McNamara was determined to sift through the thousands of pieces of evidence from over fifty-five crime scenes to try and unmask the identity of the violent psychopath. She poured over reports interviewed victims, and actively immersed herself in the online community of true crime enthusiasts. I'll Be Gone in the Dark offers insights into the assaults and the alarming steps the killer took in selecting his victims and raping them in their homes in Northern California. She also points out the trigger in 1979 that caused him to move his territory to the south where he escalated to attacking and killing couples. It is also a picture of the time in which the crimes were committed, which in some ways abetted his ability to elude capture by multiple police forces. With all the current ability to cross reference details, check DNA, and work simultaneously with multiple agencies and people, this psychopath may finally be caught. Alongside the discovery of new information (or connecting the dots of existing information) about the cold cases, McNamara includes personal autobiographical information about her life. It brings a humanity to the reporting and the facts of the cases. We can see how diligently she was working through the police reports, trying to puzzle-out the killer's identity. We know she often worked late at night, while her family slept. Tragically, Michelle McNamara passed away in her sleep at age forty-six before she could put the finishing details on the book, but the masterful work was brought to completion by her editor, a colleague, and her lead researcher. The sections that McNamara was working on are extremely well-written and highlight her daily life alongside her research and obsession with the details of the crimes and her empathy for the victims and their families. While the flow of her investigation isn't completely seamless, the sections McNamara wrote are full of compassion and a resolve to discover the truth. Hopefully the evidence she has gathered will help uncover the identity of the killer. Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of HarperCollins Publishers.
Anonymous 13 days ago
Enjoyed the investigative report
Mel-Loves-Books 4 months ago
“The doorbell rings. No side gates are left open. You’re long past leaping over a fence. Take one of your hyper, gulping breaths. Clench your teeth. Inch timidly toward the insistent bell. This is how it ends for you. ‘You’ll be silent forever, and I’ll be gone in the dark,’ you threatened a victim once. Open the door. Show us your face. Walk into the light.” I’ll be Gone int he Dark by Michelle McNamara is a true crime novel about Golden State Killer. Much of the book is pieced together from blog entries and research by McNamara after her death which occurred sadly before the book was completed. It is clear that McNamara was very dedicated to this case and finding out who this awful predator was. Her writing is passionate and captivating. I will admit that the piecing together of information or articles and the order it was done in this book was distracting to me at times. It felt like trying to follow someone unfamiliar to you who constantly switches gears. But the writing and the subject were interesting enough that I never felt like walking away. I would say if you are at all interested in true crime or this story then you should read this book. I give it 4 stars.
FreeReadAndWrite 5 months ago
#UnpopularOpinion - I don't care for this, though what it did right deserves 3 stars. The majority of the book was in fact very compelling. It felt similar to reading In Cold Blood, which is one of my favorite true crime books. This took on a similar feel but was more eerie, more disturbing, as a direct result of focusing on the victims (as there was no KNOWN assailant to provide backstory on), so you got the background of victims. Victims who, particularly living in the Bay Area, I could easily see myself becoming. There was a lot of information, too much to possibly absorb, but it was engaging. The rub to me all comes in the final chapter, where Michelle's pure obsession with running the DNA through ancestry sites is described. She feels that's the way to do this. I hate, hate, hate armchair detective work for the most part. It's how innocent people end up in prison; it's how our criminal justice system is shaped to be punitive rather than just. Armchair detectives often miss the larger implications of what they write/desire. I listen to Undisclosed religiously, my husband and I dated literally on a shared foundation of fighting for the freedom of the West Memphis Three - this is where my allegiance lies. But even more importantly, I do not believe books should be separated from their reflection on and impact on the world. Books ARE political in nature, and they SHOULD be. In the book, those who wrote this final chapter for her included the 4th amendment violations her obsession could overlook and the problems the criminal justice system could face if a police force moved forward with submitting DNA to ancestry sites. They even quoted Jeff Goldbum from Jurassic Park, stating, "Your scientists were so obsessed with whether or not they could, they didn't stop to think if they should." And yet, through the urging of her book, that's how the Golden State Killer was caught, and how more across the country have been caught since. I would be truly, truly shocked if a conviction of The Golden State Killer isn't overturned in 10 years or so once this possible constitutional violation is litigated. Will it be worth it? If he walks away for 50+ crimes? More importantly, do we want to be so focused on punishment, on having all the guilty in jail, that we don't really care about proper privacy and search and seizure issues? Yes, I know that site had this is in their privacy guidelines - I also know that privacy guidelines on sites has already been litigated to the point that courts have ruled individuals aren't really waiving all privacy if it's buried in a litany of terms and service. I feel horrific criticizing a dead woman, but the reality to me is this: she's done incredible damage to the justice system by focusing on how to catch a killer and not what the larger implications on our justice system and justifiable warrants might be because of it. Anyone who does that is beyond problematic in my book.
Anonymous 6 months ago
I wrote a glowing review of this book and it never appeared. Why not? Nothing negative or controversial. Why not publish it?
TiBookChatter 8 months ago
A matter-of-fact investigation of the East Area Rapist, better known as the Golden State Killer, as told by one obsessed journalist, her husband and team who finished the book after her passing in 2016. You might not be familiar with the Golden State Killer. He is responsible for the murders of thirteen people, over fifty rapes and numerous burglaries in California from 1974-1986. His reign of terror began when I was seven years old but I have no recollection of him in the news. This could be due to the fact that at first, he was called the East Area Rapist. Not a name that stuck. Not a name like The Hillside Strangler, for example. When journalist Michelle McNamara became obsessed with the case, she renamed him the Golden State Killer and this is when he began to get more press. The Golden State Killer left a path of evidence and clues but the science behind DNA analysis wasn’t quite there yet and no DNA databases existed in those early years to help with the investigation. McNamara, a true crime fan and creator of True Crime Diary, began to look into the case, thinking that crowd-sourcing might be a way to gain new information. Years and years of research led to a book deal but the publisher knew that a book about an unsolved case could be risky given that the guy could still be caught. And caught he was, but not before McNamara, who spent years following his trail, passed away accidentally from a lethal combination of anxiety meds and an undiagnosed heart condition. What became more risky is that Patton Oswalt, a comedian and husband to McNamara, vowed to complete the book using the notes she left behind. The book itself is pretty well-written. The parts that McNamara wrote, are to-the-point and brief but I felt that something was lacking. Emotion? Passion? She was obsessed with this guy but to me, it didn’t come through in her writing. However, there is something to be said for her matter-of-fact style. I was glad that the more grisly details, as there had to be many, were not shared on the page. I viewed her take of the case as a removed, detached view of someone on the outside looking in. This was strange to me because towards the end of the book, it’s revealed that she had boxes and boxes of files and evidence at her disposal. What she chose to share was minimal, in my opinion. The other part that was lacking, is that we never got to know the killer because he had not been caught yet. A lot of assumptions were made, and so many of them were wrong. The Golden State Killer was arrested in 2018 after a DNA match was found. Even now, we know nothing about him or why he did what he did or even why he stopped his spree. Although it may sound as if I did not like the book, I actually did but it wasn’t what I expected it to be. The parts that were pieced together by Oswalt and others are clearly marked. The book doesn’t pretend to be something it’s not. There is an authenticity to the writing that I appreciated. It’s definitely a mix of memoir and true crime but perhaps a slightly deeper dive in either direction would have made it more compelling. As a book club pick, there was a lot to discuss. We talked about the issue of privacy, why true crime is more appealing to women than men, common characteristics in serial killers, and the structure of the book itself. If you like true crime but don’t want to read anything too gruesome, there are no worries here. Details of the actual attacks are kept to a minimum.
Anonymous 11 months ago
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Sandy5 More than 1 year ago
4.5 stars The determination and drive that Michelle had as she worked so diligently to find the Golden State Killer astonished me as I read this book. She tried to connect the dots where others left each of these murders hanging, a separate life taken by some unknown criminal. Michelle did have her work cut-out for her as she looked into this case. Piecing together her notes and the boxes of evidence that she has collected, Michelle tries to find a link between the current cases and the cold cases that she has found. Michelle started writing this book but was not able to finish it before she passes away. As her lead researcher finishes this book, we have to be thankful that they undertook this mission and for their passion for this case. If it weren’t for all their effort and determination, I have to wonder if this case would have had the results that it did. It surprised me how long this activity went on without any arrests. I was amazed how many individuals came close to the individual they thought was the killer, and he still walked away. I wasn’t too fond on how this book was laid out, as I felt some events jumped around too much for my liking. It was an interesting book though and it showed how determined and obsessed Michelle was at finding the man who thought he was invincible. I am relieved that they finally captured the man who committed these crimes this fall. If only Michelle had lived long enough to see his capture, I can only imagine her response.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very scary! This gave me nightmares.
caitlinwhetten More than 1 year ago
I think this is one of my first true crime novels that I've ever read and I really loved it even though it pretty much scared the crap out of me. I listened to this on audiobook and I really enjoyed the narration. Michelle's writing is really easy to read and understand, especially if you're new to the genre. She has a great way of documenting the crimes, but also humanizing the victims and telling their story so that you relate to them. They're not just names and genders -- Michelle tells their stories and lives and who they were at the time they died or were victimized. My only criticism is that I wish it was in more of a chronological order. In the first half of the novel, it felt that the book was going back and forth between the 70's, 80's and today and it became a bit confusing. A clearer timeline would have helped, though there was probably one in the physical book. A really great, chilling true crime novel and it's a tragedy that we won't get any future books from Michelle. I would have read anything she'd written.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great read!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I thought this was a decent read. It dragged a bit in some parts. It was also a little weird that McNamara basically ignored her family to feed this obsession.