I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara

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As I talked about in a few different blog posts, mystery and crime stories have been a big part of my life for a long time. However, if you talk to anyone that’s really into true crime stories, there is always one that started it all.

I grew up in the 90’s, and I’m from New Hampshire, so there are two stories, both unsolved, that captured my imagination. The first happened in the late 90’s early 2000’s, a sixteen-year-old girl, Molly Bish, was dropped off a pond by her mom for her shift as a lifeguard and disappeared. Her skeletal reminds, and parts of her bathing suit were found three years later in the woods not far from where she was last seen.

The second was college girl who left UMass one day and her car was found in the North Country of New Hampshire in 2002. No sign of her has ever been found. There many podcasts and at least two TV series that dig into this story, the Disappearance of Maura Murray.

I never dug into these stories as some people have, I haven’t spent hours combing through Wikipedia pages and Reddit reading the theories, but I will record a special about them listen to new information. Always something that will turn my head if someone is talking about it, listening to theories. Some of them in Maura Murray case are a little weird, but since she disappeared completely under strange circumstances, that’s what happens.

Neither of these young women is that much older than me and disappeared without a trace– one dead, one still missing. For a person who loved mystery stories, real-life mysteries were interesting.

Because I spent a great deal of time watching Investigation Discovery, I was familiar with Michelle McNamara and her work. I could pick out her voice in a 48 Hours episode that I would have playing in the background while I worked. I looked forward to hearing her take on A Crime To Remember. When I heard that she was putting together a book on The East Area Rapist/The Orginal Night Stalker/ The GoldenState Killer I was excitedI was in eighth grade or a freshman in high school when they connected the EAR and the ONS with DNA, and there were about 2 million episodes of 20/20/ Dateline/ Forty-Eight hours about it at the time. I remember watching it. When Michelle McNamara passed away in 2016, the whole True Crime Community grieved–is grieving– for this loss. A small part of it is because she won’t get to see The Golden State Killer caught. There is a lot missing from the community without her there.

This book is unfinished, not just because the killer has never been caught. If you read a book about Zodiac, the book reads as unfinished because there isn’t a conclusion, this is unfinished in a different way. McNamara was in the middle of research and writing when she passed away. Several people came together to finish it. Combined parts of previously written articles and notes to finish chapters. The last part of the book is the men that helped finish the book sharing what’s happened with the case after Michelle McNamara passed and the last little part of the story that she didn’t have the chance to put into the narrative.

Like my favorite true crime books, this book is a combination of memoir and true crime. McNamara put a lot of time into this case. It says this in the book, but it’s true, The Golden State Killer was her white whale. She knew she was obsessed with figuring it out. There’s a great sense of self-awareness of how she knew she was in deep in this crime and she wouldn’t be able to stop until she figured it out. There are true crime books that have the same level of obsession but the author isn’t aware. This is different, and that’s what makes it so good. She discusses the unsolved story that first captured her attention as a teenager. Talks about how she became an unofficial detective on the case working with the people in the California cold case detectives. It’s a true crime at it’s best, an insider telling the readers everything available.

This book reads at times like horror story. Every time I talked about this book on Facebook or Instagram or whatever, someone would say “This book is great. I’m never going to sleep ever again!” This book is terrifying as it lays down myth and truth of this man– the predator. I can’t begin to imagine how awful it must have been to live in Northern California in the late 70’s or Southern California in the late 80’s. He could have been anywhere. The phone calls, the creepy-ass voice, everything about his creep is terrifying. There is no other way to describe it. He’d be waiting, knowing exactly when to strike to maximize terror.

The fact that this man came so close to getting caught over and over again, that he was inches away from an FBI officer in a car and outran the officer while riding a bicycle disappearing into a Sacramento night– again. Michelle McNamara was able to create this fear, a feeling like at any moment a man with a flashlight would be blinding the reader, announcing that he was back. He could be anywhere, after all, he’s never been caught.

It’s a great book to read during the day while the sun is out. Put it away and read something light and fun before bed, because this book will leave you with the idea that you haven’t locked all your doors or windows. Is that your cat breathing or is there a person in your living room? Will you be pulled from sleep between 2 and 4 am by a man in a ski mask with a flashlight who’s been hiding somewhere in your house for the last few hours? Someone who’s been in there before moving things, hiding rope emptying guns, getting ready. Is that noise on your roof a bird, a raccoon, or a slight, 5 foot 9 serial rapist and murderer?

Serial killers don’t just stop you say? Well, I draw your attention to BTK and the Green River Killer. Two other serial killers hiding in plain sight for years. Both able to stop killing for a period of time, both finally taken down in the early 2000’s.

This book is amazing, I can’t help to imagine how much more amazing if Michelle McNamara had finished it herself, but it’s amazing. If you are a true crime person, or a horror story person, read it.

There is still a chance that this guy will be caught, or if he’s no longer alive, he’ll be named. He was probably in his 20’s in the 1970’s, good chance he’s walking among us still. An old man now, but still alive. All we need luck and the right DNA to enter CODIS. For the people who have worked so hard on this case, for the survivors of his attacks in the 70’s the families of his murder victims in the 80’s, or Michelle McNamara, I hope we do.

 

I do have to toss out there that if you’ve read this book and want more about this case, the CaseFile Podcast did a 6 episode series on EAR/ONS/GSK it where he details all the attacks and the murders and plays the scary as fuck phone call where you can hear this fucker’s voice. If you don’t like sleeping, I suggest you listen to it. There is something about this story being told in an Australian accent that makes it creepier. Generation Why also does a pretty good job covering this case, and also plays the phone call at the end, with no warning. I cannot stress enough how creepy that phone call is.

This book will sit on the shelf with the best true crime books of all time. Set I’ll be Gone in the Dark right up there next to the Stranger Beside Me by Ann Rule. It deserves to be up there.

Until Next time Internet,

Deanna

ADDENDUM!

I wrote this post on Sunday, I’m writing this part on Wednesday morning. They got him. They caught him. There’s a suspect in custody. There will be a press conference today (Wednesday) at 3, after which I will add more information.

But Holy Shit.

They got him.

He’s stepping into the light, Michelle.

ADDENDUM 2

The arrested Joseph James DeAngelo Wednesday morning in for 2 murders connected to the Golden State Killer in Sacramento. According to the Press Conference, most of the other murders will have charges filed soon, probably before this post posts.

The brother of one of the murder victims said this in his part of the press conference and it is going to stick with me:

Sleep better now, he’s not coming through the window. He’s in jail.

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