Review: I'll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara

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I'll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara | Rating: ★★★★★

“I love reading true crime, but I’ve always been aware of the fact that, as a reader, I am actively choosing to be a consumer of someone else’s tragedy. So like any responsible consumer, I try to be careful in the choices I make. I read only the best: writers who are dogged, insightful, and humane.” 

Before I begin, can we just take a moment to note the chill that runs down your spine upon reading the words once spoken by the killer that would later become this books namesake: "You'll be silent forever, and I'll be gone in the dark?" You so rarely understand the mind of a killer but in that moment, you realize the arrogance that extends beyond one man's cruelty and it's terrifying. In recent months, I've taken up reading all the true crime books I can get my hands on as I research the (unrelated) murder of my aunt for a novel I will be writing. I'll Be Gone in the Dark is fast on the track to becoming a classic in its own right--and with good reason.

Michelle McNamara's intensity in her prose--this frank and respectful way about her research--is what makes this book so remarkable. As you read it, knowing that she had passed away before publication, you get this sense of who she was and the end result is masterful. Ultimately, the experience is almost bittersweet when you acknowledge the fact that only a few months ago the killer stepped out into the light and was finally arrested after decades of mystery.

I'll Be Gone in the Dark feels like part-true-crime and partly a retrospect on McNamara's life. Which is what keeps the research flowing, somehow. Every chapter fits seamlessly as the last, weaving the tale of one killer and countless victims of varying degrees of violence. The most accurate description would be that it achieves what In Cold Blood achieved so many years ago and gives reader a look into the crimes without sensationalizing them.

McNamara hoped to be respectful and consistently accurate in what pieces she shared with readers. In so many ways, she did so. I'll Be Gone in the Dark was by no means an easy read--but that is what makes it standout in its counterparts. Readers will be left with an overwhelming series of emotions; if they read the book before the arrest of the murderer, there was undoubtedly this fiery hope that one day he'd be caught.

The way that this novel draws you into things, makes you feel it even after he was caught. It isn't easy to create something so honest and captivating, and to not make light of the loss of life. McNamara did and left me in thoughts: sympathy, anger, sadness, hope.

Reading this book and acknowledging the horror that victims faced, and now knowing the man who placed them in a hellish reality, really sticks with you. After concluding it, and hearing the way he still managed to torment survivors later in life, I felt so much relief that they'd finally caught this man.

Hands down the best true crime book I have read in years.

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