Friday, June 15, 2018

I'll Be Gone In The Dark by Michelle McNamera

In the late 1970's and early 1980's, California was terrorized by a serial rapist and killer.  He began his crimes in Northern California in the small communities around Sacramento.  He committed hundreds of break ins and scores of rapes.  He stalked the victims in advance, and often broke in and committed his crimes while the women were in bed with their husbands.  He would have the woman tie up her husband, then move her to another room.  He would place dishes on the man and tell him if he heard them fall off and break, he would kill the woman.  He was known as the East Area Rapist or the EAR.

When the police investigation ramped up to a level that he feared capture, he moved his activities to Southern California.  There, he escalated to murder and is credited with ten murders.  He had killer a couple in Northern California earlier to escape so his murder toll is twelve, although many police believe it is higher.  Then, he seemed to stop.  This occasionally happens with serial killers and it often means the perpetrator has died or is imprisoned.  While the crimes stopped, the police investigations did not.  The police had the best clue of all, a DNA profile but for many years, it didn't provide any breakthroughs.

In addition to the police, an entire society of Internet crime fighters has arisen.  Michelle McNamera was one of these driven individuals.  The wife of actor Patton Oswalt, Michelle was consumed by this case and spent endless hours and funds investigating it.  She met and collaborated with the police investigating the crimes, found old witnesses and victims and talked with them, and spent endless hour discussing the case on Internet boards with other individuals interested in the case.  She started writing I'll Be Gone In The Dark to detail her work and gave the killer a name, The Golden State Killer.  Unfortunately, she died before the book could be completed.  Her husband and others found a way to finish her work and the book became an instant bestseller. 

Outside of the personal loss, the publishing community lost a great true crime writer when McNamera passed away.  Her tenacity, intense curiosity and empathy are clear in her writing.  The book has a forward by Gillian Flynn and an afterward by her husband, Patton Oswalt.  As most readers know, the DNA finally provided the impetus to charge someone with the crimes.  Joseph James DeAngelo, who is now 72, has been charged and will be facing charges.  This was a landmark book and will be one of the classics in the genre.  This book is recommended for true crime readers.

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