Tag Archives: Serial Killers

Review: I’ll Be Gone in the Dark

I'll Be Gone in the Dark

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark
By Michelle McNamara
Harper, 9780062319784, February 2018, 352pp.

The Short of It:

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.

The Rest of It:

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. You are given just enough to set the tone but nothing more than that.

Have you read the book? Have you heard of the Golden State Killer? Apparently he goes to trial in August 2019. They are seeking the death penalty although our governor recently nixed the death penalty in California. Not sure how that is going to work plus many of the rapes are beyond the statute of limitations now.

An HBO series on I’ll Be Gone in the Dark is currently filming but there is no expected release date listed.

Source: Borrowed
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

Review: After Her

After Her

After Her
By Joyce Maynard
(William Morrow & Company, Hardcover, 9780062257390, August 2013, 320pp.)

The Short of It:

Touching, poignant and moving. A beautifully written novel by one of my favorite authors.

The Rest of It:

In the late 1970’s, Marin County, California was rocked by the murders of several young women in the area. The killer, known as the “Trailside Killer”, preyed on women hiking Mount Tamalpais. The detective working on the case at the time, Detective Gaddini, had two young daughters of his own, so the continued loss of life hit him hard knowing that these young women would never return home. After Her is loosely based on the details of this real-life case.

Maynard’s book, follows sisters Rachel and Patty Torricelli as their father, Detective Anthony Torricelli investigates the murders of female hikers in the area. The area in question just happens to be the mountain behind their home but even with the added danger and their father’s orders to stay off the mountain, the girls continue to spend their days there.

When the killings continue without any significant leads, the community becomes restless over the investigation’s lack of progress. Rachel. fiercely loyal to her father, takes matters into her own hands.

Oh, what a gem of a book!

I’ve only read one other book by Maynard (Labor Day, soon to be a movie!) but what impressed me so much with that one is what impresses me here. Her sense of place and her knack for creating honest, likable but flawed characters is what immediately attracted me to the story. I loved these girls! Rachel and Patty are what you and I envision sisterhood to be. Rachel, the older of the two, adores Patty. Patty, is often the more sensible of the two, yet Rachel’s imagination is what makes living on the mountain what it is. After their parent’s divorce and the obvious withdrawal of their mother, they are left to fend for themselves. What could be a depressing, dire situation becomes opportunities for adventure.

I loved the simple love and admiration displayed by these sisters. Without a TV in the house, they spend their evenings camped out in backyards, hoping to catch something good on their neighbor’s TV. They play games, shoot baskets and talk about boys. But when the mountain becomes the center of the investigation, staying off of it is close to impossible. Their innocence, given their proximity to the case is endearing. If you long for simpler times, as I do, this book will leave you with a heavy sense of nostalgia.

When the killer makes himself known, I could not help but be angry. As much as they struggle to keep the mountain pure and untouched, there’s no denying that it’s changed for them. And seeing the changes in their father, as he struggles to put the pieces together is enough to almost break them.

Oh, and their father! Anthony Torricelli’s love for his daughters literally leaps off the page. I ADORED him, which is how most women in the story feel about him even with his tendency to be a bit too friendly with the ladies. His tireless efforts to catch the killer, and his remorse over how things ended with his ex-wife lend a sympathetic air to the situation.

Another blogger noted that at page 150, not much was going on but now that I’ve finished the book, I understand what she meant. This book is about many things, but most of all, I found it to be a book about family and what it means to be a family and Maynard’s decision to spend so much time on the girls and the relationship with their father is what makes this story so endearing and heartbreaking. Against the backdrop of the serial killings, the backstory of these characters is like a gentle reminder of all things good.

Lately, readers have been asking me if a book I’ve reviewed is too dark or violent so I do want to mention that although there is mention of rape, the details of the murders themselves are largely left up to your imagination. And given the subject matter, I did not find this book to be dark or depressing.

It’s a mystery, a love story, a coming of age novel and a scrapbook (of sorts) of what it was like to be a kid in that decade. It’s charming, heartbreaking and at times funny. I loved it and highly recommend it.

Source: Sent to me by the publisher via Edelweiss

Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.