Thursday, June 21, 2018

I'll Be Gone in the Dark

I'll Be Gone in the Dark
by Michelle McNamara
Pub Feb 2018

Short version: A riveting read. Truly compelling (& horrifying) write up on the history of the Golden State Killer's crimes and investigation. But I have lots of mixed feelings anyway.

Long Version: On the one hand, I relate to the author's spiral into obsession with serial murder mysteries. In fact, I recently came across my middle-to-high school diary and a good chunk of it was devoted to cracking the Zodiac Killer's cryptograms. (Though I can't say my motivations were very noble, I was just fascinated with catching a glimpse into the deepest darkest crevasses of humanity. Plus I fucking loved ciphers). After undergrad, I even considered applying to graduate programs focused on psychopathology research. So from that angle, I was completely hooked on this text. It's clearly a thorough, thoughtful account meant to shine a light one of the most heinous criminals in recent US history.

 Yet somehow despite all of that, the book still left me a bit unsettled. First of all, I wasn't expecting this to be part memoir. When she started going on about her own life and childhood I was genuinely worried she was going to weave herself into the entirety of the book, but thankfully it was just to give some background or establish context here and there. Beyond that, I'm generally suspicious of media riding this new "true crime" wave. It just feels... exploitative. McNamara sort of addresses this early on saying, “...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.”

 But even with her sensitive portrayal of the victims, the book still feels like it exists purely as a vehicle to showcase her writing. That or she wanted tangible justification for how much of her life she let this investigation consume. She did good work and she kept the case fresh in people's minds: I think the point of this book was to continue to keep the narrative alive, reaching as large an audience as possible in an effort to track down more clues. But man, sometimes her "insight" was so amateur I'd literally cringe.

 Now this could totally be the bias of hindsight, but it honestly doesn't seem like anything she contributed-- her hours and hours of combing through files and interviewing detectives and compiling insane amounts of data-- actually did anything to progress the investigation. The lead investigator was on the right track all on his own, it was just a matter of time.

0 thoughts: