Master List of all the books mentioned in My Favorite Murder! #murderino #SSDGM #MFMRead More
Publication Date: 2/27/18
Page Count: 328
Why I read it: I'm a true crime addict and I couldn't resist. I was also drawn in because of the author- the late Michelle McNamara. She was a true crime blogger and the wife of Patton Oswald.
Synopsis: From Amazon-
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 TrueCrimeDiary.com, 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.
Opening Sentence: "That summer I hunted the serial killer at night from my daughter's playroom."
My Thoughts: I'm truly shaken. I've been meaning to post my thoughts since I finished the book last month, but to be honest I had to take some time to digest all that I'd read. Then today (4/25/18), word got out that the Golden State Killer has been caught. Yes, just a mere TWO MONTHS after Michelle McNamara's book was published, a suspect tip came to the Sacramento police. They were able to retrieve his DNA and found it was a 100% match to that of the Golden State Killer, a serial killer who is believed to have committed 12 murders and over 50 rapes. The crimes were committed in both Northern and Southern California, and the case has been cold for years.
At last, he's been unmasked. On National DNA Day, no less. If you want to go into a deep dive, here's the Reddit thread about the East Area Rapist/ Original Night Stalker, aka the Golden State Killer.
But back to the book. I enjoyed it immensely- as much as one can enjoy a book about a serial killer rapist. This is largely due to Michelle's skill as a writer. Her tone is so authentic. The writing is strong and she seamlessly weaves facts in with a narrative, drawing you right into the story. There's immense detail and the book could have been extremely dry, but she brought a human element into the victims/ survivors. I also appreciate that the book wasn't exploitative. You can tell she had such compassion for her work and a respect for law enforcement. She was the type of author that I would find myself visiting on Instagram to tell them how much I enjoyed their work. I have to imagine it's painful for her loved ones to read this, but they should be proud. Her hard work has paid off.
There are a ton of resources in the book, including a map of the attacks, a list of the victims, and a list of the key investigators. We get to learn about policing in the 1970s and how different things are today. Back then, there weren't separate crime divisions. You were considered to have experience if you worked on a similar crime once. This was also a stark reminder of how new DNA testing really is- Alec Jeffreys only discovered DNA fingerprinting in 1984 (a fact I learned from this book). I find it absolutely incredible that profilers are able to connect cases that are seemingly unrelated to form a narrative that can be used to find the responsible. As of this writing, the public doesn't have information about where the tip used to catch him came from, but I imagine everything will come out. Already, I can see that some of the suppositions in the book are true- they had an idea about what jobs he might have and where he lived. I already want to re-read this so I can see how much they had correct.
There are many haunting passages in this book (the ones where Michelle talks about her family, not knowing how much time she herself has left comes to mind), but none are more impactful to me than the epilogue. She titles it "A Letter to an Old Man".
"'You'll be silent forever, and I'll be gone in the dark,' you threatened a victim once. Open the door. Show us your face. Walk into the light."
I found this book to be disturbing, thought provoking, exciting, and painful. It reads like a memoir with hugely disturbing bits subtly woven in. This book will scare you- but it's an important reminder that these crimes are real. You might feel, as I do, compelled to make changes to your own home. After all, "prowling is the easiest thing in the world to do." Sometimes I feel bad about reading true crime, thinking about someone profiting off of these terrible acts. But this book is decidedly different- McNamara had a passion and thirst to find out who was behind all of this depravity. She was trying to do good. And ultimately (despite what the Sacramento police officers acknowledge)- she has.
Find me me here!
Publication Date: December 5th, 2017
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Page Count: 288 pages
Why I read it: I'm generally always in the mood to read a book about serial killers. What can I say?
First Sentence: "It's too dark to go out but too hot to sleep."
Synopsis: Ellery Hathaway knows a thing or two about serial killers, but not through her police training. She's an officer in sleepy Woodbury, MA, where a bicycle theft still makes the newspapers. No one there knows she was once victim number seventeen in the grisly story of serial killer Francis Michael Coben. The only victim who lived.
When three people disappear from her town in three years, all around her birthday—the day she was kidnapped so long ago—Ellery fears someone knows her secret. Someone very dangerous. Her superiors dismiss her concerns, but Ellery knows the vanishing season is coming and anyone could be next. She contacts the one man she knows will believe her: the FBI agent who saved her from a killer’s closet all those years ago.
Agent Reed Markham made his name and fame on the back of the Coben case, but his fortunes have since turned. His marriage is in shambles, his bosses think he's washed up, and worst of all, he blew a major investigation. When Ellery calls him, he can’t help but wonder: sure, he rescued her, but was she ever truly saved? His greatest triumph is Ellery’s waking nightmare, and now both of them are about to be sucked into the past, back to the case that made them...with a killer who can't let go.
My Thoughts: Ellery Hathaway is a survivor. She was abducted as a kid but lived long enough to be rescued. She tries to move on and starts over as a police officer in an anonymous town, but comes to realize she's not as anonymous as she thinks she is- every year, she gets a mysterious birthday card in the mail and someone else in the town disappears. No one believes her when she says they're connected so she enlists the help of FBI agent Reed Markham, the profiler who found her. Her birthday is coming up again so it's a race against time to stop the killer from finding his next victim.
Right off the bat, I could tell this protagonist was written by a woman. She was strong without being too hard headed and believably flawed. I loved the first chapter. I feel like we got to know just enough about her to see where she came from without spoiling everything. Clues about her past were dropped throughout the story until we get the whole picture. The writing was tight and straightforward. It was short of dialogue but long on internal monologue- I enjoyed the author's style. This was not a raging page turner, but I thought the story was compelling and well crafted. There were some plot points that were a little too convenient, but nothing too distracting. My favorite element was the mentor/mentee relationship between Ellery and Reed- it was so fun to read them profiling the criminal. I did finally figure out what was going on but was kept guessing until the very end!
Favorite Quote: "... Yet if viewing skin flicks could turn a person into a homicidal maniac, the county would be strung with bodies like paper dolls, lined up from end to end."
Publication Date: June 27th, 2017
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Page Count: 416
Why I read it: This amazing cover. I saw it all over Instagram!
First Sentence: "There it was again, that incessant ping."
Synopsis: From Amazon- For over five years, the Four Monkey Killer has terrorized the residents of Chicago. When his body is found, the police quickly realize he was on his way to deliver one final message, one which proves he has taken another victim who may still be alive. As the lead investigator on the 4MK task force, Detective Sam Porter knows even in death, the killer is far from finished. When he discovers a personal diary in the jacket pocket of the body, Porter finds himself caught up in the mind of a psychopath, unraveling a twisted history in hopes of finding one last girl, all while struggling with personal demons of his own. With only a handful of clues, the elusive killer’s identity remains a mystery. Time is running out and the Four Monkey Killer taunts from beyond the grave in this masterfully written fast-paced thriller.
My Thoughts: The book begins with no preamble. We're introduced to detective Sam Porter, who gets a 911 text from one of his colleagues who tells him there's been an accident and that he should head to the site ASAP. The story unfolds and we quickly find out why Porter specifically was called to the scene. The dead man appears to be the Four Monkey Killer, a Chicago serial killer that Detective Porter has been tussling with for years. The man is holding a box with a piece of his most recent victim in it; it appears he was on the way to the mailbox when the bus came. He also has a journal in his pocket, which gives the reader a glimpse into the mind of the killer via a vignette from his childhood. The book cycles back and forth between the journal and present day. Sometimes, I find myself getting bored when the story skips around, but both stories were completely captivating so I was hooked. 4MK is truly twisted- we find out that he learned the tricks of the trade from his mother and father. We also get to find out where the nickname Four Monkey Killer comes from, which I loved. Despite the bus, 4MK has left clues to direct the police to his latest victim and they're frantically trying to 'puzzle it out' so they can reach the girl in time. There were some cliches peppered into the beginning- the corrupt Chicago politicians, the hard boiled - crap at technology police officers- but not enough to take away from the story. The story also has alternating POVs- Porter, 4MK via the journal, another detective, and the victim. As you might imagine, the book is about a kidnapping and a serial killer, so it does get graphic and violent. Reading through the victim's story was chilling, but her story is only a small piece of the puzzle. I kept thinking it was going to go one way and then it would go another. There were a few big surprises peppered throughout- none of which i saw coming. (But, to be fair, I'm pretty bad at predicting that sort of thing). It started a bit slower for me, but once I was about 60% of the way through I couldn't put it down. The fact that the story opens with a bus having run over a major player in the story kept things from becoming too predictable. Some of the pieces of the story were far fetched, but if you let yourself suspend reality and go with the narration, I think you'll enjoy it too.
Favorite Quote: "Women were perfectly capable of handling pain but not emotion. Men handled emotion but not pain. The differences were sometimes subtle, but they were there nonetheless."
Find me me here!