All the hype surrounding Michelle McNamara’s I’ll Be Gone in the Dark made it clear that a lot of readers found it to be extremely upsetting to read this at night before bed, or really at any point at home alone. In fact, I listened to a press release where Patton Oswalt told (sensitive) people to read it during on a sunny day in a public, well-populated area. To me, this level of hype is irresistible. I’ve never succeeded in being scared by a book, but I very much yearn for it. So, I ran off and bought it, along with another, shorter toxicological history of poisonings, which has been my night reading and which I’ll review when I finish soon.
Now, my husband and I bought a house last year and are adjusting to life without immediately available neighbors. We have a security system and a fierce beast of a dog and we truly enjoy our neighbors, but we have odd schedules and, like anyone, I do spend a bit of time at home alone. Since I have a natural proclivity for paranoia, I elected not to torture myself with nocturnal readings. I’ve been reading it during lunch breaks or weekend mornings, patiently awaiting the promised disturbing information, so this means that I have spent weeks trying to pencil in short sprints of time in order to make progress on this book instead of devouring it as is customary. The issue is that not only does this mean it’s taking forever to read this, but also I’m frustrated every time my bright, populated readings aren’t disturbing at all!
Let me be clear: I am not as bothered by this as I thought I would be, but it is undoubtedly bothersome and I can easily see how it disturbs and disrupts lives. I have been ingesting true crime for years and have a natural interest in psychologically challenging subjects, so I’ve nonchalantly been entertained by stories that others cannot tolerate. Different strokes, yadda yadda yadda. However, foundationally, the history of the Golden State Killer is that which keeps me up at night. His story fuels and validates my paranoia. I assume you’re all out to get me. Having said that, reading the details has bothered me but little. I don’t know how to feel about this book, so I’m including my famed “Pros/Cons” analysis below.
PRO: It’s true crime! As much as I love true crime, I equally hate fake crime. Fabricated mystery almost feels insulting to the victims of REAL crimes, so I avoid it like the plague, for the most part. McNamara spent decades researching the East Area Rapist/Original Night Stalker/Golden State Killer and her dedication is palpable and deserves the credit it’s due.
CON: It was published shortly before the GSK was finally caught. I see this as a con because it means that I have so many more questions now that the horrific perpetrator has been caught. Now, we know more about him and who he was while he committed these heinous crimes, so it almost feels like there are unfinished chapters containing resolution that I wish could have been included.
PRO: It was published shortly before the GSK was finally caught. Yes, I see this as a pro and a con. While I do feel unresolved now that we know the GSK’s identity and I have more questions than the book had answers, it also gives such a unique perspective to the unsolved, decades-old-mid-investigation. It conveys the desperation and grasping at straws that was felt by investigators, victims, and anyone else who followed the case. It’s a true reflection of a feeling and a time that (thankfully) has changed.
CON: There was a lot of down time. Because McNamara was an obsessed civilian, the information conveyed is not pure investigative journalism, a.k.a. facts on facts on facts; it is mixed in with her own personal struggle with her obsession and the roads it took her down, which were interesting, but often made the story feel a little too disconnected and stream-of-consciousness. At one point, she finished a paragraph saying a man asked asked a witness a question and when the next paragraph went off on a sidebar story, I didn’t find out that question until over twenty pages later and I’d long since forgotten the thread.
PRO: I like the personal narrative aspects of the book. I know some people (HVA, looking at you) are worried that the book will be more about McNamara than the GSK and the corresponding investigations. However, I think it gave unique perspectives, especially since McNamara gives an everyday-woman POV while having really important connections, meaning you get to see the emotions of society AND the investigative, secret details.
PRO: It has pictures of many of the victims. It also has a map of the locations of some of his crimes.
CON: The map is not all inclusive. I was hoping for a map of all 50 rapes and 12 murders. However, I realize the book isn’t big enough to include a map of that size and detail. Nonetheless, I want it.
PRO: Paul Holes. (#HotForHoles #AnyMurderinosOutThere?)
More pros than cons tells me how I feel about this book. I must admit that I never doubted that I was enjoying the experience of reading it, and I’m not usually into non-fiction, so to enjoy this speaks volumes. Like all stories, it has strengths and weaknesses that a reader must navigate, but the overall it’s a massively informative and insightful book.