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 | First edition
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"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 ... 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"- Amazon.com.
Publisher: New York, NY : Harper, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, [2018]
Edition: First edition
ISBN: 9780062319784
Branch Call Number: 364.1532 MCNAMARA
Characteristics: xvi, 328 pages : illustrations, maps ; 24 cm


From Library Staff

Also available as an e-book and e-audiobook.

"The author of this true crime book sadly died before it was published, and before the research showcased in this book helped lead to an arrest in several decades-old murders this year." Marleah, Supervising Librarian

From the critics

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Aug 01, 2020

I really enjoyed reading I'll be Gone in the Dark and I would highly recommend it. In particular, I would recommend this book to someone who loves crime/mystery novels. I enjoyed how suspenseful the book was. I was constantly on edge about what was going to happen next. However, I wouldn't recommend it to someone with a light heart due to the graphic descriptions about crime and violence. I think the last third of the book could have been better since the change of tone and writing style was abruptly presented and a far cry from the gripping words written by the late Michelle McNamara. This book was a totally different experience because generally I'm not drawn towards non-fiction. I have a new respect for these types of books after learning about Michelle McNamara's dedication to solving this 30-year-old cold case. The moral of I'll Be Gone in the Dark is that one person can make a difference in the world. In Michelle's case, it was justice. My main takeaway from this novel is that with hard work and perseverance anything can be achieved. 4/5 stars
@Roman of the Hamilton Public Library's Teen Review Board

Jul 20, 2020

The book was unfinished at the time of Ms. McNamara's death and, especially the last half, is pieced together from old notes, drafts, and other works she published before, so there is a bit of a disjointed nature to it, but overall it is very good and very engrossing. Don't read it alone at night.

Jun 22, 2020

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark is not just a tale of a decade-long crime spree, of a maddeningly elusive peeper, burglar, rapist, and murderer. The GSK burglarized more than 120 homes, raped dozens of women, killed at least ten people, and at least one dog during the 1970s and 1980s. The first crimes took place in the 1970s, the last known GSK crime was committed in 1986. He began with simple burglaries, dozens of them, enough to earn a tabloid name, The Ransacker, then moved on to rape. One of his victims was thirteen. The tabloids called him the East Area Rapist (EAR) and the Original Night Stalker (ONS), often merging the two to EAR-ONS. This book is not only a tale of obsession as the author, and others with her particular inclination, bury themselves in the forensic, statistical, genetic, and geographical trail left by this relentless offender.
McNamara’s writing skills are considerable. She keeps the narrative moving, slickly evading the potential peril of death by excessive detail. She reports on some of the gore the GSK generated, but not too much, not nearly as much as she might have. “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…The hunt is the adrenaline rush, not the catch. He’s the fake shark in Jaws, barely seen so doubly feared.”
McNamara died in her sleep, in April, 2016, at age 46, from a combination of drugs interacting with an undiagnosed medical condition that caused a blockage in her arteries. She had been stressed out from working on this book, putting in long hours and suffering anxiety and nightmares that kept her from sleeping. Her husband engaged researcher Paul Haynes and investigative journalist Billy Jensen to complete the book McNamara had worked on for so long, and with such dedication.

Apr 06, 2020

Even though I am drawn to true crime documentaries and podcasts, I struggle to read true crime because I can't tune things out when it gets to be overwhelming. However, McNamara could explain the hard stuff without turning it into a spectacle, she was always respectful and always empathetic to the victims. While this book did leave me paranoid about locking doors and windows, I'm glad to have read it and recommend it to anyone interested in true crime. I also recommend McNamara's blog True Crime Diary if you are interested in more of her investigative work.

Lord_Vad3r Mar 26, 2020

I remember when Joseph James DeAngelo was arrested. Having never heard of the Golden State Killer or the East Area Rapist, it passed by me as a blip. Like many other people, I must admit to a morbid curiosity when it comes to the darker side of humanity. Basically, I read a lot of true crime and then think deeply about how avoid becoming a victim.

Here's the frightening thing about this guy. He was seriously prolific. When did he sleep? He went to school, worked as a cop, and had a family ala Dexter Morgan. How did he maintain his public face? I would like to think that I'd be able to detect somebody this sick if I crossed paths with them. Surely there had to be warning signs.

McNamara really was a good writer. She mixes in memoir with investigative journalism effectively. She is very honest about her own shortcomings (like when she mentions that she has been so obsessed with work that she forgot to get her husband an anniversary present). Sometimes writers get so caught up in the gore that they forget to be sympathetic to the victims. Not so with this writer. It was sympathy for a victim that spurred her onward. It truly is a great shame that she didn't live long enough to see him taken in. I read the Kindle version which could use some maps interspersed throughout for those of us not familiar with Sacramento and the surrounding areas.

All in all this was a really well written book that was hard to put down.

Jan 13, 2020

This is not my genre of choice, but a compelling and well written account. A pity McNamara did not live to see the day the killer was arrested.

Jan 12, 2020

This was a good read about the golden state killer. I like the detail on the victims and the authors way of phrasing. It wasn’t so filled with details which are hard to keep track of in some true crime novels. The prejudices of detectives at that time and how information wasn’t shared with other cities is something unbelievable in today’s information overload

STPL_Tammy Sep 17, 2019

A fantastic true crime read.

Hiking_Librarian Aug 22, 2019

A dark insight into the timeline of the Golden State Killer. Looking into the past, Author Michelle McNamara predicts how the future of trendy genetic testing ultimately led to his capture. As a native to the the area he first got started, the Visalia ransacker is still talked about today. It is quite haunting to read about a serial killer who once prowled the streets I grew up on. Although the timeline seems jumbled in the book, it is a definite must read If you are interested in the serial killer phenomena that plagued the 1970’s-1980’s.

Jun 18, 2019

2018; Harper/HarperCollins Canada

I remember watching true crime episodes on the East Area Rapist (EAR) and the Original Night Stalker (ONS) as I grew up on shows like Dateline, 48 Hours and 20/20. The thought that these killers were still not caught, and could be preying on people even now was just so terrifying. As I started to see more about these serial killers, there was also this urban legend component to them. I mean, these crimes happened awhile ago, nothing else had been tied to them, and seemed to be the past. These cold cases were famous for being unsolved and the brutality seemed so savage that it seemed unreal to everyone not touched by this. At the time though, people were terrified as this wasn’t just women being preyed upon but couples. Being home with someone else did not protect you.

To this day I still faithfully PVR Dateline Mysteries and 48 Hours Mysteries. It was on an episode of 48 Hours, that I first saw Patton Oswalt speak of his wife, Michelle McNamara’s work on the Golden State Killer. Michelle, a writer, wrote some articles on true crime, and had her own true crime blog. With her interest in EAR and ONS she started to do her own investigation into the crimes and the killers. As she started digging she theorized that EAR and ONS were the same person. If that was true the evidence found in the two groups could be connected to one suspect. From there she would try to put together a profile of the killer that could lead to suspects that could be tested against DNA. Patton’s love, respect and awe for Michelle on the show, and in the book’s Afterword further drew me into Michelle’s journey as well as the case and her writing. He and Michelle call her investigation her obsession and it is that passion that real brings Michelle to life in the book.
Anyone that knows me, knows that I have always been interested in true crime shows and mysteries. Yet, I can be picky about what I will invest my time in. It is not that a case is not “juicy” enough, but it is what resonates with me. I am curious about psychology behind what causes someone to act in such a brutal way. Something about Michelle's passion and her writing style really sucked me right in. Even if I wasn’t interested in the case I would have read this. She was able to present the facts and be compassionate to the victims and their surviving families. I find often that writers try to scandalize or be too graphic when there is no need to. These were real people that horrifically lost their life and deserve justice. Unsolved murders and missing persons are two things that terrify and sadden me.

After finishing this book, it was announced that they may have found the Golden State Killer (GSK) based on DNA evidence. They were able to find him through a genealogy site. They have been testing the evidence to their suspect. Michelle passed away before she was able to finish the book so it was finished through editors, and they did well with keeping with Michelle's vision. I highly recommend this book as it is a good read as well as informative.

***I received an eARC from EDELWEISS*

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Add a Quote
Apr 06, 2020

"I'm still hoping he hears that cell door slam behind him. And I hope she hears it somehow too."

Feb 01, 2019

This is how it ends for you.

“You’ll be silent forever, and I’ll be gone in the dark,” you threatened a victim once.

Open the door. Show us your face.

Walk into the light.”

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.


Add a Summary
Apr 06, 2020

McNamara weaves true crime facts into a narrative that is easily digested while maintaining an air of respectfulness and empathy for the victims and their families. She writes about the crimes of course, and the theories of who the killer could be, but she also writes about her methods of investigation and the lengths to which she and other "DIY detectives" and retired officers team up to make sure that the Golden State Killer is brought to justice.

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:



Add Notices
Apr 06, 2020

Frightening or Intense Scenes: Generally disturbing acts committed by the Golden State Killer

Apr 06, 2020

Sexual Content: Describes assaults committed by the GSK

Apr 06, 2020

Violence: Describes murders committed by the GSK


Add Age Suitability
Apr 06, 2020

Jcrawley_0 thinks this title is suitable for 18 years and over

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