Review by Christina
Read in The Traveling Friends Goodreads Reading Group
🎶Everyday I’m feeling fine,
Forever reading true crime🎶
This starts with an introduction by juggernaut thriller author Gillian Flynn and ends with a heartbreaking and beautiful epilogue by McNamara’s husband and esteemed actor Patton Oswalt. What happens in-between was pure, unadulterated journalistic *magic*.
“Writing this now, I’m struck by two incompatible truths that pain me. No one would have taken more joy from this book than my mother. And I probably wouldn’t have felt the freedom to write it until she was gone.”
While on its surface, this is a story about an elusive burglar, rapist, and murderer dubbed the Golden State Killer – at its heart, it’s really a look inside the life and mind of its author: Michelle McNamara. We’re given intimate details about the crimes committed by GSK (whom we now know is Joseph DeAngelo) and are walked chronologically through the escalation and the atrocities he reaped upon the Sacramento area over a decade-long crime-spree.
Spliced in between these horrendous retellings we’re given insight into McNamara. Who she is as a person, where her obsessive nature comes from, how it was ultimately refined to true-crime. Her passion for the work she does is evident throughout the entirety of this read and it’s impossible not to be swept up into the sheer magnitude of research and dedication she put into this masterpiece.
“The victims recede from view. Their rhythm is off, their confidence drained. They’re laden with phobias and made tentative by memory. Divorce and drugs beset them. Statutes of limitations expire. Evidence kits are tossed for lack of room. What happened to them is buried, bright and unmoving, a coin at the bottom of a pool. They do their best to carry on.”
What really struck me here was the accessibility of McNamara’s voice. When you’re dealing in such raw, gruesome and heart-rending facts it’s easy to get lost in the sensationalism of it all. So much of true-crime is this in-your-face, all about ratings, how many jaws can we get to drop type of business that the humanity of those affected is lost. McNamara did not falter in this regard even once. She dealt in pure facts and maintained a clear and deep respect for the victims, the police officers, and the communities this criminal terrorized.
“I don’t care if I’m the one who captures him. I just want bracelets on his wrists and a cell door slamming behind him.”
It is certainly very interesting having read this book after DeAngelo has now been caught and knowing how easy it would’ve been for him to just slip through the cracks and live the rest of his life a free man. I think it shows who McNamara was as a person that despite her deep obsession with this case she simply wanted him caught. She didn’t need fame or fortune or to be involved -in the end, she just wanted justice. It leaves a sad aura around me knowing that she will not get to see the praise and reception she has received and that we’ve lost such a truly talented voice in investigative journalism.
I completed this as a Traveling Friends read and it is incredible how many people have their own stories of seemingly normal people we later find out have committed heinous crimes. This makes a fantastic group read as there are endless opportunities to discuss. However, if I can give future readers one piece of advice: don’t read this alone, at night or you’ll be gone in the dark too.
Cheers to Michelle McNamara and a true work of art.
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