Cover image for I'll be gone in the dark : one woman's obsessive search for the Golden State Killer / Michelle McNamara ; with an introduction by Gillian Flynn ; and an afterword by Patton Oswalt.
I'll be gone in the dark : one woman's obsessive search for the Golden State Killer / Michelle McNamara ; with an introduction by Gillian Flynn ; and an afterword by Patton Oswalt.
Title Variants:
I will be gone in the dark :

one woman's obsessive search for the Golden State Killer
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York, NY : Harper, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, [2018]

Physical Description:
xvi, 328 pages, 16 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations (chiefly color), maps, portraits, facsimiles ; 24 cm
General Note:
"Framed by an introduction by Gillian Flynn and an afterword by her husband, Patton Oswalt, the book was completed by Michelle's lead researcher and a close colleague [Paul Haynes]."
Time line map -- Cast of characters -- Introduction, by Gillian Flynn -- Prologue -- PART ONE: Irvine, 1981 ; Dana Point, 1980 ; Hollywood, 2009 ; Oak Park ; Sacramento, 1976-1977 ; Visalia ; Orange County, 1996 ; Irvine, 1986 ; Ventura, 1980 ; Goleta, 1979 ; Goleta, 1981 ; Orange County, 2000 ; Contra Costa, 1997 -- PART TWO: Sacramento, 2012 ; East Sacramento, 2012 ; The Cuff-links coda ; Los Angeles, 2012 ; Contra Costa, 2013 ; Fred Ray ; The one ; Los Angeles, 2014 ; Sacramento, 2014 ; Sacramento, 1978 -- PART THREE, by Paul Haynes and Billy Jensen -- Afterword, by Patton Oswalt -- Epilogue: Letter to an old man.
"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. 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, 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. At the time of the crimes, the Golden State Killer was between the ages of eighteen and thirty, Caucasian, and athletic-- capable of vaulting tall fences. He always wore a mask. After choosing a victim-- he favored suburban couples-- he often entered their home when no one was there, studying family pictures, mastering the layout. He attacked while they slept, using a flashlight to awaken and blind them. Though they could not recognize him, his victims recalled his voice: a guttural whisper through clenched teeth, abrupt and threatening."


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
364.1532 MCN Book Adult General Collection
364.1532 MCN Book Adult General Collection

On Order



#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER * The haunting true story of the elusive serial rapist turned murderer who terrorized California for over a decade--and of the gifted journalist who died tragically while investigating the case.

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, 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 is destined to become a true crime classic--and may at last unmask the Golden State Killer.

Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

This posthumous debut recounts the chilling crimes of a serial murderer in California in the 1970s and '80s, alongside the indefatigable investigation of crime writer McNamara to uncover the identity of the killer decades later. When McNamara first started writing about the case on her website TrueCrimeDiary in 2011, DNA testing had already linked 10 murders and 50 sexual assaults to one unknown man. The culprit, whom McNamara later gave the moniker "The Golden State Killer," was a serial rapist in San Francisco's East Bay in the mid-1970s, attacking women and girls in their homes. But in 1979, a close encounter with law enforcement led to a change in his M.O., and from that point on no one survived his attacks. McNamara fills in each crime with haunting details ("The suspect began clicking scissors next to blindfolded victims' ears") and tells the story of her own investigation, going as far as to track down and purchase from a vintage store a pair of cuff links that she believed the Golden State Killer stole from a victim. By the time of her sudden death in 2016, McNamara had inspired an online community of sleuths who continue to research the crimes. With its exemplary mix of memoir and reportage, this remarkable book is a modern true crime classic. (Mar.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

New York Review of Books Review

HAVE YOU HEARD? They may finally have caught the Golden State Killer, who managed to commit more than 50 rapes and 12 murders between 1976 and 1986, until he just ... stopped. (An ingenious application of forensic science brought him down, but that's another story.) If there's any justice left in the world, that law-enforcement coup should fire up interest in I'LL BE GONE IN THE DARK: One Woman's Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer (Harper/HarperCollins, $27.99), the definitive crime study of one of the most elusive offenders to come out of California - or anywhere, really. Sadly, the good news can't reach the author, Michelle McNamara, who died in 2016, leaving an investigative journalist and a researcher to finish this comprehensive and important study of how a killer can elude detection for almost 40 years. The killing didn't start right away. In the beginning, this night stalker restricted himself to raping single women in their bedrooms and limited his activities to the Sacramento area of Northern California. Back then, he wore a homemade mask and was known as the East Area Rapist. After committing as many as 50 sexual assaults, he worked his way down to Santa Barbara and attacked couples. That's when he escalated to murder. Because sections of McNamara's manuscript were pieced together from her notes, there's a disjointed quality to some of the chapters. But the facts remain the facts. In December 1979, the serial rapist transitioned into a killer when he shot Robert Offerman, an osteopathic surgeon, and his girlfriend, Debra Alexandria Manning. How cold could this guy be? After committing the murders, he went into the kitchen and ate their Christmas dinner. Historical murderers lack that modern-day sense of humor. They kill. They bury the bodies. They keep their mouths shut. Take the antiheroine of hells princess: The Mystery of Belle Gunness, Butcher of Men (Little A, $24.95), Harold Schechter's deeply researched and morbidly fascinating chronicle of one of America's most notorious female killers. Standing six feet tall and weighing 280 pounds, Gunness was described by Harper's Weekly as a "fat, heavy-featured woman... with a big head covered with a mop of mud-colored hair, small eyes, huge hands and arms, and a gross body with difficulty supported by feet grotesquely small." Evidently no beauty, this strapping Norwegian immigrant became matrimonially desirable in 1901, when she bought a 48-acre farm outside La Porte, Ind., with insurance money from the suspicious but unchallenged death of her first husband. Questions were raised, then dismissed, when she buried the handsome boarder (a "fine-looking blond Viking of a man") who became her second husband, a relationship that lasted until a heavy metal sausage grinder happened to fall on his head. The list goes on, of hopeful farmhands and would-be suitors who were never seen again after responding to the come-hither ads Gunness ran in Norwegian-language newspapers. You have to say one thing for Gunness - she wrote catchy ad copy: "WANTED: A woman who owns a beautifully located and valuable farm in first-class condition wants a good and reliable man as partner in same." Were it not for the ad's last line - "Some little cash is required" - that siren song would turn any man's head. You'd think that Gunness's lamblike victims, some 20 it was believed, might have been leery of her bluntness. ("Take all your money out of the bank," she directed her swains, "and come as soon as possible.") But as Schechter suggests, America at the turn of the 20th century was a vast unknown land, intimidating to friendless immigrants eager to hear a welcoming voice in their own language. His intention, he tells us, was to focus on Gunness and the atrocious nature of "the butchery she performed on her victims, the desecration of their corpses, hacked to pieces and dumped in the muck of her hog lot." But his greater achievement is to humanize these lonely men - Henry Gurholt, Olaf Lindboe, Christian Hilkven and the rest - excavating their bones from the foul burial pits on Gunness's "murder farm," the last, sad stop on their adventures in a brave new world. Ah, women. What would homicide cases be without the ladies? If they aren't personally committing a murder, like Gunness, they're instigating one. There always seems to be some lovesick chump around to do the actual deed while they're innocently filing their nails. Or, in the case of that little minx Evelyn Nesbit, kicking up her heels on a velvet swing. Reams of print have been lavished on this 16-year-old femme fatale, a chorus girl who figured in a salacious scandal that began in 1901 with an innocent romp in a rich man's playroom (see: Swing, velvet) and ended in a murder trial that transfixed New York society. In the girl on THE VELVET SWING: Sex, Murder, and Madness at the Dawn of the Twentieth Century (Mulholland, $29), the historian Simon Baatz takes a surprisingly credulous view of Nesbit's role in the murder of her lover, Stanford White, the brilliant New York architect, who nearly went bankrupt designing the original Madison Square Garden. Calling her "naive and impressionable," Baatz absolves Nesbit, by virtue of "her inexperience and her youth," of any complicity in White's death at the hand of her husband, the profligate playboy Harry Thaw. Recreating an imagined conversation between the pair, he notes that "tears welled in her eyes," forcing her to turn away "to wipe away a tear that threatened to roll down her cheek." Poor baby. Unlike those biographers who jump off the gravy train when it runs out of steam, Baatz follows both Nesbit and Thaw past the end of the line, when the scandal of their lives was well behind them. He's sympathetic to Nesbit during her years of drug addiction, and is on her side when Thaw, a millionaire when he died, leaves her no more than a pittance in his will. But by then the thrill is gone, and Baatz's narrative never again rises to the drama of that night in 1906 when, during a performance of a musical turkey called "Mamzelle Champagne," Thaw crept out of his seat at the theater, raised a pistol and fired three shots at Stanford White, killing him on the spot. "Sing, girls, sing!" the panicked stage manager implored the chorus. "For God's sake, sing!" And they did. Does everyone have a murder in the family skeleton closet? Pamela Everett never knew she did, until the night her father broke down in tears and told her a secret about the two sisters he "lost." That horrific tale inspired little SHOES: The Sensational Depression-Era Murders That Became My Family's Secret (Skyhorse, $23.99), about the 1937 rape and murder of 7-year-old Madeline and 9-year-old Melba Marie Everett. "They found their pairs of little shoes lined up in a row," Pamela's father told his daughter, who got the impression that "someone had taken greater care with the shoes than with the bodies." That's the kind of image that sears into your brain (and makes an eye-catching book cover). But despite the cover art and lurid subtitle, Everett doesn't turn a tragedy into a cheap melodrama. The facts of the story are plain and simple and sad. The two young sisters and a little friend were playing in a pretty park across the street from their home in a "lovely" California neighborhood when they were lured away by a man who called himself Eddie the Sailor and promised to take them rabbit hunting. (Each child could have her very own bunny, they were told.) Two days later, a troop of Boy Scouts found their broken bodies at the bottom of a gully. On occasion, Everett lets her imagination run away with her narrative. ("My grandmother is covering her entire face with both hands. I can hear her sobbing. I can see her shoulders heaving. I can hear her muffled cries.... No, no, no. Please God no.") At other times, she's shockingly blunt, reflecting on what jurors assigned to the murder trial had to keep in mind: "nooses pulled tight, bloody clothing, violent sexual attacks, mutilated bodies, the little shoes in a row." For the most part, though, she covers the facts in a sober manner, while looking over her shoulder at "a seemingly simpler and safer time" when people trusted their children to entertain themselves, look after the younger kids, and come home in time to wash faces and hands for supper. In telling this piece of family history, Everett is not simply walking us through social changes since 1937. (But on this subject, when, exactly, did children lose the freedom to play outside without grown-ups watching?) As a professor of criminal justice, she's also keeping track of the technical advances made during the criminal investigation of this case, including one of the first forensic profiles of a sex offender ("Look for one man, probably in his 20 s, a pedophile..."). And as a lawyer for the California Innocence Project, she eventually raises the appalling possibility that the man who was hanged for the murders might have been innocent - a plot twist that in a fictional account might seem histrionic. True-crime authors sure do like to insinuate themselves into their stories, even when the connection is entirely peripheral. Cutter Wood once stayed at a motel that later figured in a 2008 murder case, a slim coincidence that nonetheless led to his thoughtful account of that business. LOVE AND DEATH IN THE SUNSHINE STATE: The Story of a Crime (Algonquin, $26.95) opens with a vivid description not of some criminal atrocity but of a picturesque island in Greater Tampa Bay on the Gulf of Mexico. Drawn to the island, Anna Maria, for a family affair, Wood puts up at a motel owned by Sabine Musil-Buehler, who goes missing some months later, when her motel burns down. "I had the sudden sense, almost like a shock of static electricity, that I needed to know more," he tells us of his impulsive decision to return to Anna Maria to look into this mystery. As seems to be the fashion nowadays, Wood entwines the specifics of the case - including his investigation of the various suspects, among them Sabine's boyfriend, Bill - with episodes in his own life that might not be particularly meaningful for readers. ("She cooked the eggs while I got the toaster off the high shelf," he recalls of those heady early days in a new relationship.) Perhaps that heightened sense of identification is what it takes to interest a writer in the personal history of a stranger. "Ithas notgone unrealized by me," Wood admits, "that as I fumbled so earnestly with the story of Bill and Sabine, I was also undertaking a not unrelated investigation into my own life." Mercifully, whenever he focuses on some aspect of the case that excites him, he drops that affectation and attends to his writing. Here, his fixation is fire. "I absorbed myself in a near-fanatical research into fire," he tells us. During hours spent at the library, he accumulated accounts of "all the best fires," from the Great Fire of London and earlier conflagrations in Rome and Alexandria to the solitary funeral pyre of Jan Hus. The modest fire at Sabine's motel hardly ranks among those epic blazes that moved the author to eloquence. But it does present a focal point for what is, after all, just a sordid little murder in a sad part of town. Blood, guts, body parts, leftover food - who's going to clean up this mess, anyway? Time to call in the pros. That would be Sandra Pankhurst, the subject of Sarah Krasnostein's one-of-akind biography, the trauma CLEANER: One Woman's Extraordinary Life in the Business of Death, Decay, and Disaster (St. Martin's, $26.99). Pankhurst, the founder of Specialized Trauma Cleaning Services Pty. Ltd. ("We specialize in the unpleasant tasks that you need to have taken care of"), promises to rid your home of everything from bedbugs to fresh human corpses. "People do not understand about body fluids," Pankhurst notes in the brochure that lists her many mop-up services, including, as she puts it on her business card, "Homicide, Suicide and Death Scenes." But she neglects to mention the most valuable of her services - the nonjudgmental respect and compassion she shows to clients living and dead. A typical job for Pankhurst and her crew might be cleaning out the apartment of a reclusive woman named Dorothy who had become a concern to her neighbors. It took six people 12 hours to complete the job, not counting the time needed to take the front door off its hinges to get past the debris. But when Krasnostein asked what the hoarder looks like, Pankhurst said only that "she just looks like an old lady." When pressed on the matter - "Is she unwell?" - Pankhurst replied: "I think she's just lonely." Working for someone who seems as nice as Pankhurst makes trauma cleanup sound like a nice job. But let's make no mistake about the nature of this work. "Trauma cleaning as a career may have a darkly attractive quirkiness," Krasnostein allows, "but the reality is that it is dirty, disturbing, backbreaking physical labor of transcendentally exhausting proportions." Take that into consideration and the work ethic of Pankhurst and her crew seems admirable in the extreme. No matter what horrors they find on a job, they leave the site spick-and-span. If murderers, who are mostly men, were required to clean up after themselves as well as Specialized Trauma Cleaning Services does, the murder rate would drop precipitously. But then Pankhurst and her crew would be out of a job - and we wouldn't want that, would we? Marilyn STASIO writes the Crime column for the Book Review. Pankhurst, the founder of Specialized Trauma deeming Services, promises to rid your home of everything from bedbugs to fresh humem corpses.

Library Journal Review

Can an independent journalist backed by a dedicated online community bring down a serial predator who terrorized a neighborhood for decades? This gripping, intimately drawn book chronicles McNamara's research into the unsolved rapes and murders of the Golden State Killer in California. McNamara, who blogged at, -meticulously covers the long (and ongoing) criminal investigation, giving equal attention to the work of the detectives who have worked the case and the terror the victims faced. The book is also part memoir, as McNamara reveals how her almost obsessive research kept her up nights, sometimes writing notes with her daughter's crayons. Published after the author's untimely death in 2016, the book contains several unfinished chapters and explanatory comments, which in this context add to the somber and disconcerting accounts of life's fragility. Narrator Gabra Zackman delivers a stellar performance. Her steady and calm narration adds to the unsettling feeling and helps to ramp up the suspense and intensity (which might make some people sleep with the lights on). VERDICT While this extremely well-written book will get attention from the big names attached (author Gillian Flynn and -McNamara's husband, Patton Oswalt, who both narrate their respective contributions), this work deserves to stand on its own and belongs on the same shelf with other contemporary classics of the genre. The print version is already a best seller so expect high demand. For those on the holds list, recommend Robert Kolker's The Lost Girls, James Renner's True Crime Addict, or notable true crime podcasts such as Stitcher's Stranglers. ["A haunting, if somewhat patchy read for fans of true crime": LJ 3/1/18 review of the Harper hc.]-Cathleen Keyser, NoveList, Durham, NC © Copyright 2018. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Gillian FlynnPatton Oswalt
Time Line Mapp. ix
Cast of Charactersp. xi
Introductionp. xiii
Prologuep. 1
Part 1 Irvine, 1981p. 9
Dana Point, 1980p. 21
Hollywood, 2009p. 27
Oak Parkp. 31
Sacramento, 1976-1977p. 51
Visaliap. 85
Orange County, 1996p. 99
Irvine, 1986p. 107
Ventura, 1980p. 117
Goleta, 1979p. 123
Goleta, 1981p. 129
Orange County, 2000p. 147
Contra Costa, 1997p. 155
Part 2 Sacramento, 2012p. 169
East Sacramento, 2012p. 177
The Cuff-Links Codap. 187
Los Angeles, 2012p. 191
Contra Costa, 2013p. 197
Concordp. 197
San Ramonp. 209
Danvillep. 218
Walnut Creekp. 234
Davisp. 241
Fred Rayp. 255
The Onep. 261
Los Angeles, 2014p. 273
Sacramento, 2014p. 277
Sacramento, 1978p. 281
Part 3 By Paul Haynes and Billy Jensenp. 283
Afterwordp. 317
Epilogue: Letter to an Old Manp. 323