I'll Be Gone in the Dark

I'll Be Gone in the Dark

One Woman's Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer

Book - 2018
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#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER * The haunting true story of the elusive serial rapist turned murderer who terrorized California for over a decade--and of the gifted journalist who died tragically while investigating the case.

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 is destined to become a true crime classic--and may at last unmask the Golden State Killer.

Publisher: New York : Harper, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, [2018]
Edition: First edition.
ISBN: 9780062319784
Characteristics: xvi, 328 pages : illustrations (some color) ; 24 cm
Alternative Title: I will be gone in the dark


From Library Staff

mko123 Apr 26, 2018

They just got this guy! The recently deceased author kept the interest high and the heat on the detectives to solve these decades old crimes. Too bad she didn't live to see the arrest. I got half way through this book and had to put it down because I was getting too creeped out. That is a testam... Read More »

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Dec 05, 2018

This book was really weird for me. I was so looking forward to reading it and it really did pull me in for the first few chapters, but I began feeling really uneasy. I'd put the book down, and pick it up again only to stall. It was so disconnected, jumping back and forth from period to period, character to character...I can see this format really working for certain readers. It keeps you on your toes, but I think you've got to be in the mood to be kept on your toes when the subject matter is so dark. The format lends too much levity to the story...I sort of wanted the author to hunker down and dig into a period or character, THEN move on. But I have a feeling this book got so much hype and push simply because the author died young and in her sleep (and was married to Patton Oswalt, apparently?). RIP to her. I'm a true crime lover, but like a steadier focus.

Nov 23, 2018

As a memoir for Michelle McNamara, who I was a big fan of, I liked this book and enjoyed her storytelling. The drive and obsession this woman had was amazing and it's heartbreaking to know that she never got to see it published. However, as a true crime novel I found that the timing jumped around a lot and make the actual story of the EAR/ONS/GSK a bit confusing.

Nov 12, 2018

Could not put this down. I enjoyed Michelle's writing and her way of intertwining the victims stories with factual evidence from the cases. Very griping but recommend not reading too late at night. I had to check all my windows and doors while reading this!

LPL_LeahN Oct 27, 2018

Michelle McNamara possessed a rare gift. She could almost overwhelm you with facts of the deeply disturbing East Area Rapist case, but knew just when to reel you back in with a poetic turn of phrase. In this book, she doesn't beat around the bush about the horror of his crimes, but approaches each with compassion and respect for the victims.

Going into this knowing that she tragically passed away before its completion, and before the EAR was caught earlier this year, and that she left behind a young daughter and devoted husband...that made me sad. Now, after reading her only work of this kind, I lament that her promising career was cut short. She was instrumental in spurring this investigation forward, and told the story with such grace. Her passion, dedication, and talent will be missed.

Oct 24, 2018

I am unsure why this type of book fascinates and draws me in. It feels prurient in some ways. This is a deep exploration by a skilled writer of a tragic series of crimes by a man who derived pleasure by abusing and murdering innocent people.

IndyPL_ShannonB Oct 23, 2018

I have read a lot of true crime in my day, but this book has affected me as few books have. The combination of the story of the Golden State Killer and his evolution from serial rapist to serial killer plus Michelle McNamara's discussion of how the quest for him affected her own life plus the fact that McNamara died before the book was finished makes this a very compelling story. I am still not quite finished with the book, as I have to put it down, because it gets too frightening.

Oct 22, 2018

I was disappointed by this true crime book. One of the main reasons concerns the fact that Ms. McNamara never finished the book. She died in 2016 from complications of the combination of the medications fentanyl and xanax. No reason has ever been provided, to my knowledge, as to why this massive pain killer ( responsible for the deaths of Prince and Michael Jackson ) was being prescribed. Whatever the underlying diagnosis, it may have contributed to the obsession with the Golden State Killer and explain the fact that the pictures of the author show her working in bed. Ms. McNamara wrote a true crime blog. The book has been cobbled together from this, published articles, and notes. The result is disorganized and repetitive. The content could have been concisely recorded in half the pages. Extraneous chapters unrelated to the author seem to have been added to pad the pages rather than to add significant information. Since the killer has never been identified, if he is still living I can imagine him glorifying in his story and the failure of law enforcement. I hope the obsession behavior of the author did not interfere with her personal life to the extent that seems to be portrayed. McNamara herself acknowledges the incredible toll the case took on her, writing at one point that “there’s a scream permanently lodged in my throat.” I have read a number of amazing true crime books. I highly recommend "Helter Skelter" by Curt Gentry and Vincent Bugliosi, "The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America" by Erik Larson, "Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI" by David Grann, and "The Onion Field" by Joseph Wambaugh. Since reviews of this book have been so positive, I was hoping for an excellent book, but was very disappointed. Kristi & Abby Tabby

Oct 13, 2018

This is not just about unsolved cold cases or the man who eluded police and terrified several communities. This is not about getting into the mind of a killer and trying to understand his motivations. This is about a woman piercing together the past with what she can find in the present. This is about connecting with people, investigators, victims, families, and the internet. The Golden State Killer remains a character at a distance, and rather than diving into the mind of a killer, McNamara opens up her mind for the reader to understand her obsession, her analysis, her Hope's and her frustrations. McNamara does not glorify or romanticize the killer to help the reader connect, but uses herself as that connection so that the killer remains exactly what he is, a killer. Although her unexpected death kept her from finishing the work, I think that makes the readers connection to McNamara stronger. At times we are offered fragments from past works, rather than a polished chapter. Anecdotes from those in her life and what they saw in her. This is about the author, and just as she didn't have all the pieces neither do we.

OLATHEAllisonB Oct 12, 2018

Michelle McNamara was a skilled writer, rare in her ability to write about horrific crimes without indulging in the details and glorifying the sins of the perpetrator. This was a fast paced read until the final third of the book. At that point, there's a very long chapter following Michelle and a former detective on the case as they tour various neighborhoods that the Golden State Killer targeted; I found this chapter extremely dull and skimmed a lot of it to get to the conclusion of the book. I find it extremely satisfying that Michelle's intensive and laborious work on this book helped locate a suspect; I look forward to seeing if we have finally found him, and can put him behind bars for good.

Aug 14, 2018

Cannot put this book down until I finish it. It is compelling and interesting in its subject catching a rapist and killer that comitted over 50 crimes in California. One woman's obsession with the crimes and the goal of piecing together police files to find clues to this man's identity.
The fight to bring him to justice and making him pay for all the lives he destroyed in his rampage across the state of California. Great book!

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Apr 26, 2018

Citrus Heights where DeAngelo, 72, has been arrested on Apr 25, 2018:

(EAST AREA RAPIST . . . FEAR GRIPS SERENE NEIGHBORHOODS), a man in a leather hood entered the window of a house in Citrus Heights and sneaked up on a sixteen-year-old girl watching television alone in the den. He pointed a knife at her and issued a chilling warning:
“Make one move and you’ll be silent forever and I’ll be gone in the dark.”
What is the lasting damage when you believe the warm spot you were just sleeping in will be your grave? Time sands the edges of the injuries, but they never lose their hold. A nameless syndrome circulates permanently through the body, sometimes long dormant, other times radiating powerful waves of pain and fear. A hand gripped her neck. A blunt-tipped weapon dug into the side of her throat. At least a dozen investigators in Northern California could have correctly predicted the first words whispered in the dark.
“Don’t move.”
“Don’t scream.”

Apr 26, 2018

In another notepad, she wrote: “Don’t underestimate the fantasy: not raping in front of men—afraid of male; functional; privacy, writhing male not part of his fantasy. Mommy and crying. No remorse. Probably part of fantasy.” There were even notes on her own psychology:
-He was a compulsive prowler and searcher. We, who hunt him, suffer from the same affliction. He peered through windows. I tap “return.” Return. Return. Click Mouse click, mouse click.
-Rats search for their own food.
-The hunt is the adrenaline rush, not the catch. He’s the fake shark in Jaws, barely seen so doubly feared.
AFTER PROCESSING THE HOUSE, THE POLICE SAID TO DREW WITTHUHN, “It’s yours.” The yellow tape came down; the front door closed. The impassive precision of badges at work had helped divert attention from the stain. There was no avoiding it now. His brother and sister-in-law’s bedroom was just inside the front door, directly across from the kitchen. Standing at the sink,

Apr 26, 2018

California Proposition 69, approved in 2004, which mandated DNA collection from all felons, and from adults and juveniles charged with certain crimes (e.g., sex offenses, murder, arson). Keith Harrington’s (1980 victim in Dana Point) brother Bruce sponsored the campaign, pledging nearly $2 million to fund it.
DNA was the thread Michelle felt was the best way to get out of the maze of the Golden State Killer. California was one of only nine states in America that allowed testing of familial DNA within the state’s database. If the GSK’s brother was arrested for a felony tomorrow, we would see a hit. But that database contains only people who have been convicted of a crime. Michelle thought she might have found the killer when she had uploaded his DNA profile to a Y-STR database available online from Ancestry.com.
EAR/ONS == East Area Rapist / Original Night Stalker

Apr 25, 2018


Scrolling through the rest of the 3,500 documents in Michelle’s hard drive, one comes upon a file titled “RecentDNAresults,” which features the EAR’s (East Area Rapist) Y-STR markers (short tandem repeats on the Y chromosome that establish male-line ancestry), including the elusive rare PGM marker. Having the Golden State Killer’s DNA was always the one ace up this investigation’s sleeve. But a killer’s DNA is only as good as the databases we can compare it to. There was no match in CODIS. And there was no match in the California penal system’s Y-STR database. If the killer’s father, brothers, or uncles had been convicted of a felony in the past sixteen years, an alert would have gone to Paul Holes or Erika Hutchcraft (the current lead investigator in Orange County). They would have looked into the man’s family, zeroed in on a member who was in the area of the crimes, and launched an investigation. But they had nothing.


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Jun 25, 2018

I have an occasional thing for True Crime, and this case has definitely caught my interest, but of course not at the same level as it captured the author's. She pursued this killer and rapist with the same level of dedication as the hardened detectives and criminalists that she profiles along with the killer. A good read, although sobering.

Apr 25, 2018

Cast of Characters

Sheila (Sacramento, 1976)
Jane Carson (Sacramento, 1976)
Fiona Williams (South Sacramento, 1977)
Kathy (San Ramon, 1978)
Esther McDonald (Danville, 1978)

MURDER VICTIMS (***DNA link tied to 4 cases --- announced Apr 25. 2018)
Claude Snelling (Visalia, 1978)
Katie and Brian Maggiore (Sacramento, 1978)
Debra Alexandria Manning and Robert Offerman (Goleta, 1979)
Charlene and Lyman Smith (Ventura, 1980) ***(DNA link)
Patrice and Keith Harrington (Dana Point, 1980)
Manuela Witthuhn (Irvine, 1981) ***(DNA link)
Cheri Domingo and Gregory Sanchez (Goleta, 1981) ***(DNA link)
Janelle Cruz (Irvine, 1986) ***(DNA link)
Note: per wiki: The Golden State Killer is a serial killer, serial rapist and serial burglar who committed 50 rapes in Northern California during the mid-1970s and murdered twelve people in Southern California from 1979 through 1986 ...
Author's February 27, 2013 article for LA magazine:



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