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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Washington Post | Maureen Corrigan, NPR | Paste | Seattle Times | Entertainment Weekly | Esquire | Slate | Buzzfeed | Jezebel | Philadelphia Inquirer | Publishers Weekly | Kirkus Reviews | Library Journal | Bustle

Winner of the Goodreads Choice Awards for Nonfiction | Anthony Award Winner | SCIBA Book Award Winner | Finalist for the Edgar Award for Best Fact Crime | Longlisted for the Carnegie Medal for Excellence

The haunting true story of the elusive serial rapist turned murderer who terrorized California during the 70s and 80s, and of the gifted journalist who died tragically while investigating the case--which was solved in April 2018.

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 has been hailed as a modern true crime classic--one which fulfilled Michelle's dream: helping unmask the Golden State Killer.

Publisher: New York, NY : Harper, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, [2018]
Edition: First edition.
Copyright Date: ©2018
ISBN: 9780062319784
Branch Call Number: 364.1532 MCNAMARA
Characteristics: xvi, 328 pages, 16 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations (chiefly color), maps, portraits, facsimiles ; 24 cm
Additional Contributors: Flynn, Gillian 1971-
Oswalt, Patton 1969-


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From Library Staff

List - Killing Eve
LPL_IlkaI Jan 07, 2019

This title may be non-fiction, yet will speak to the element of obsession that is prevalent in Killing Eve. True crime journalist, Michelle McNamara, was determined, no, obsessed with finding the psychopath she called "the Golden State Killer." In Northern California, for more than a de... Read More »

This book was published posthumously, and also a mere few months before the Golden State Killer was finally identified and caught by Sacramento Police. Michelle McNamara was a brilliant storyteller and passionate pursuer of justice. The true crime world lost a real gem.

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 eac... Read More »

A masterful true crime account of the Golden State Killer—the elusive serial rapist turned murderer who terrorized California for over a decade—from Michelle McNamara, the gifted journalist who died tragically while investigating the case.

From the critics

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LCPL_Krystyna Oct 26, 2020

Investigative journalism and true crime at its best! This was chilling and terrifying. It's a great book to pick up, even if you're not typically a fan of true crime. It's very well-researched and brilliantly written.

Sep 16, 2020

Fantastic read! The focus here is on McNamara's literal obsession with catching the Golden State Killer. It's sad knowing she passed just a couple years before he was caught, but this book is evidence of how her work contributed to his capture. She had a wonderful narrative voice and writing style that makes this book so easy to read (but sad knowing it ends with this single book). There are some great creepy moments that work well because of how she tells this story rather than feeling cheap and for the sake of a scare.

Sep 09, 2020

I'd already watched the TV documentary by the same name, but still very much enjoyed the book. Michelle's attention to detail, persistence and her obsessive investigation of every tiny clue are truly awe-inspiring. I have to admit, however, that by the time I was nearing the end of the book, I was sick of the work she was doing and I just couldn't imagine how she managed to keep at it. It is really a book worth reading.

Aug 25, 2020

Had she lived to complete her book, the author would have most certainly written the portion written post-mortem in a tone more consistent with the pages that preceded it. That said, this book did a good job at continuing the author's quest and was imminently readable. Since I know that the Golden State Killer has since been identified, tried, and convicted, it would have been interesting to have that part of the story reflected in the book and I missed not having that satisfaction of closure. Still, I read it in a single day then rose from my couch near the end of the book, to shut all my open windows and sliding doors. If you can read 300+ pages about a vicious serial murdered-rapist who breaks into houses with ease, I assume you would do the same.

Aug 24, 2020

Superb! Had Michelle lived she most certainly would have identify DeAngelo on her own.

Aug 13, 2020

This incredibly detailed factual account will interest fans of the true crime genre, mystery aficionados and anyone who watches forensic files. Do not read alone after dark!

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.

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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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