I have to admit that I’m glad I’m done reading this book. It’s not that it wasn’t great (it was), it’s just that I’m sick of waking up in the middle of the night THINKING about it. Unfortunately, the story of the East Area Rapist/Golden State Killer is so unnerving, I don’t think I’ll be able to shake this for a while.
If you like true crime in any capacity, you’ll love this book. If you like good, investigative journalism, you’ll love this book. If you like unique and compelling storytelling, guess what? You’ll love this book.
This book is an accomplishment, a benchmark. It’s a tragedy that Michelle McNamara didn’t live to finish it herself and it’s a tragedy she didn’t live to see its success and that she didn’t live to learn the name, Joseph James Deangelo.
I enjoyed reading about McNamara’s personal story as much as I did her crime research. I grew up in the northwest suburbs of Chicago (Oak Park is a western suburb), born to two North Side Irish Catholics. There’s a lot in her Oak Park upbringing that I recognized. But you don’t have to be able to relate to her to appreciate the way she writes about family history and relationships. Her emotional intelligence and awareness are obvious; specifically when she delves into her relationship with her mother- “She was both proud of the fact that she had raised a strong-minded daughter and resentful of my sharp opinions.” I’m certain she could have written a compelling book about any topic.
I feel the same way about losing McNamara as I do about losing David Rakoff; a selfish pang knowing that we, the readers, will never get to read any new works by this author.
As for the crime writing, I admire McNamara’s devotion to facts, her doggedness, and her humility. She is in this not for the glory, but because she feels compelled to dig, to bring the necessary truths to light.
I must have read this part ten times:
“If you commit murder and then vanish, what you leave behind isn’t just pain but absence, a supreme blankness that triumphs over everything else. The unidentified murderer is always twisting a doorknob behind a door that never opens. But his power evaporates the moment we know him. We learn his banal secrets. We watch as he’s led, shackled and sweaty, into a brightly lit courtroom as someone seated several feet higher peers down unsmiling, raps a gavel, and speaks, at long last, every syllable of his birth name.”
Now we know him, banal as ever, power evaporated.