I’ll Be Gone In The Dark: Michelle McNamara


I’ll Be Gone In The Dark by Michelle McNamara is a strange audiobook to review. Hence, this will be a bit of an unusual review. The book is an unsolved mystery. However, the mystery was solved shortly after the book was written. Thus it is by it’s very nature an incomplete story. Is it still worth the listen? Read on.

Michelle McNamara was a true crime blogger and amateur sleuth. She was investigating and writing about the Golden State Killer at the time of her death in April of 2016. She started the book while she was alive, but it was completed posthumousl.  One of her fellow investigators finished th book with the help of a co-author. Gillian Flynn wrote the foreword, Patton Oswalt the afterword. Therefore, this book is ultimately a collaboration.

The authors do a good job of informing the reader which parts were written by Michelle, and which were written by others. Furthermore, they notate which parts were compiled from her writings but weren’t put into the book by her.

I'll be gone in the dark.

Michelle McNamara

Michelle pictured with husband and actor Patton Oswalt.

I’ll Be Gone In The Dark; One Woman’s Obsessive Search For The Golden State Killer.

I'll Be Gone In The Dark

Michelle absolutely was obsessed with catching the Golden State Killer. The book implies that her obsession may have factored in to her untimely demise. Unfortunately, she died before he was identified.

We now know who the killer was. Therefore, instead of running through the narrative of the book, I’m going to list the major things I took away from the book.

Michelle’s Obsession shines through in “I’ll Be Gone In The Dark”.

She ate, breathed, and slept GSK. Michelle worked with investigators on the case. Thus, she gained access to some of the files. She poured over them, and even scanned them for use with software programs.

Her obsession with the case was so complete that she once tracked down a pair of cufflinks believed to have been stolen from one of the crime scenes. She turned a room in her house into a GSK room. This was her investigation headquarters. She tracked leads, and ruled out potential suspects. She coined the nickname “Golden State Killer”. Previously, the unsub had only been known as the “East Area Rapist”.

Michelle’s role in catching the Golden State Killer.

This is debated in the book. Law enforcement concludes that her work didn’t play a crucial role. Some of her fellow investigators disagree. However, they don’t make a compelling case for her involvement. Outside of drawing attention to the case, did she play any major role?

The short answer is “no”. However, this answer doesn’t do full justice to her involvement. Consider the following points.

  • In the book, Michelle raises the idea of sending the killer’s DNA to a geneology site. However, she points out that they do not accept the DNA markers. They require an actual DNA sample.
  • Furthermore, she expresses her frustrtion that geneological websites wouldn’t work with law enforcement. This causes me to conclude that she discussed this possibility with the detectives.
  • She lamented not having access to the killer’s DNA to send it in herself. Thus, one could easily conclude that she likely also discussed this possibility with law enforcement.

These points aren’t exactly rocket science. However, they show why Michelle was doing the work she did. She knew how to solve the case. Since those steps couldn’t be taken, she took the gumshoe angle. She was dediccated. Determined to catch the killer. She was aware that her method was a secondary effort. Her preferred method eventually unmasked Joseph DeAngelo, the Golden State Killer.


Ultimately, it was scintific andvancements that were the undoing for GSK. Michelle predicted this. However, her work fell short of catching him before science did.

Michelle’s obsessive search for the Golden State Killer makes I’ll Be Gone In The Dark” a compelling read. The book also tells her personal story. She was drawn into her work at a young age when a neighborhood woman was killed while jogging. The murder was never solved. This began her obsession with cold cases.

The book also tells the story of her marriage. Patton Oswalt seems like a remarkable man. Her love and appreciation for him shows in her writing. His love for and dedication to her scream from the pages he wrote as an afterwords. The romance stands out in stark contrast to the havoc that she is inestigating.

Despite the case being solved, “I’ll Be Gone In The Dark” is worth your time and money. It’s the journey, as opposed to the destination. Information about the naming and capture of the killer is tacked on at the end. However, this book allows you to get lost in the hunt with an obsessed woman who was determined to capture her prey. May she rest in peace.

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