I have been listening for months to people rave about I'll Be Gone in the Dark. I knew it was going to be phenomenal. But I wasn't sure I wanted to read it.
There was a while, when I was younger, that I watched all the true crime I could. I wanted to know all I could about serial killers like Ted Bundy, John Wayne Gacy, and Aileen Wuornos. I would watch for hours. But then something changed. I was plagued by nightmares, and I stopped watching it all. Now I'm a wuss. So I was pretty worried about taking on this book. The Golden State Killer wasn't just a monster, he was a monster who terrorized his victims over and over. Honestly, I didn't want to hear about it.
Then this week, they finally caught him. So I decided to binge the audiobook in two days, and hope that the stories of the crimes wouldn't get to me too badly. For me, that was the perfect way to take on I'll Be Gone in the Dark.
The book itself if fantastic. It in no way glorifies the crimes. It does describe them, being certain to show a lot of respect for the victims. But a large part of the book is about Michelle McNamara's journey to becoming a true crime obsessive. She writes with such humanity, with such honesty, and with such grace that the book is readable even for true crime wusses like me.
There are parts of the book that McNamara didn't finish before her untimely death, and her editor makes notes of those sections. Mostly they were pieced together from an article she had written and her notes for the book, and those are seamless in the exposition. There is one chapter that is a transcript of a conversation, and hearing that read is a little jarring, but it's barely a blip in the experience of listening to this story.
As a bonus for listeners, the preface that was written by Gillian Flynn is actually read by Gillian Flynn, and the afterword by Patton Oswalt is actually read by Patton Oswalt, which makes it all so much better. Even if you do start crying in your cube at work. It's still worth it. And the narrator of everything inside, Gabra Zackman, finds just the right tone to convey McNamara's urgency and her heart for justice. The experience of listening to I'll Be Gone in the Dark is just lovely in every possible way.
I am amazed at how much work Michelle McNamara put into this case. She was so diligent in her research and quick to invite others into her journey to catch the Golden State Killer, a moniker she came up with, and I have no doubt that her insight and perseverance helped lead to his arrest. My only regret in reading this book is not getting to read the book she would write next, about how he was caught and how all those strands of the story weave together into the ultimate ending.
In short: don't be afraid. Read this book. And see what a superhero really looks like.
Galleys for I'll Be Gone in the Dark were provided by HarperCollins through Edelweiss, with many thanks, but I bought the audio version myself, thanks to Audible.