Mini Reviews: I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara + American Sherlock by Kate Winkler Dawson + We Keep the Dead Close by Becky Cooper

After finishing I’ll Be Gone in the Dark, it seems that I went down a little bit of true crime rabbit hole. All three of these books are nonfiction true crime books; I listened to the audiobook versions.

When researched and written well, I find nonfiction true crime novels to be really intriguing and engrossing. Like many humans, there is this weird fascination with crimes. Since I’ve always been interested in profiling and trying to understand the perpetrator. McNamara’s book was the only one that really looked at that side of the crime.

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer by Michelle McNamara

I think one of the reasons why I wanted to read this, besides several good reviews I read, was that it was about a serial killer and rapist that terrorized California for over a decade in the 70s and 80s. Even though I was not alive during the time, I grew up in California as did my parents and aunts and uncles. Plus, I wanted to read this before watching the HBO documentary.

Sadly, this book was completed shortly after McNamara’s sudden death (it kind of sucks realizing that she never learned who the killer was). Regardless, two of her close friends and fellow citizen detectives, plus her husband, helped put all of McNamara’s research and writings together to form this cohesive book. I found Michelle McNamara thinking patterns and motivation towards finding a perpetrator to be similar to myself (if I did this sort of thing for a living I guess). So following along with her paths with evidence and her theories, etc, was easy and enjoyable. Her writing completely engrossed me and the narrator for the audiobook did a wonderful job! I just started the documentary and it is really good; if you read the book, I highly recommend watching the documentary afterwards.

American Sherlock: Murder, Forensics, and the Birth of American CSI by Kate Winkler Dawson

The premise of this book sounded so interesting. One, I didn’t know that there was one main person who helped create criminal forensics in both theory and practice in the US in the early twentieth century. Two, I also did not know that the use of forensics started so early. For some reason, I thought forensics started to be used by police departments in maybe the 50s. But no, it all started in the late 1920’s and early 1930s. While I did find the whole of the story interesting, there were just some personal aspects about Heinrich that I didn’t really care about. I did like that Dawson told the story through a few of the major and more famous cases that Heinrich worked on. I didn’t love Dawson as the narrator though and some parts of the story felt a little sluggish. I can see someone who loves forensics or works in the area, to enjoy this book at least slightly more than I did.

We Keep the Dead Close: A Murder at Harvard and a Half Century of Silence by Becky Cooper

Another unfortunate unsolved murder and rape of a young Harvard female student. If it wasn’t for a legend type of story kept alive in the halls of Harvard, our writer Becky Cooper would never have started digging. While I found Cooper’s writing to be great and cohesive, the book itself felt way too long. Or at least the section that the book were divided into would have been easier for me to digest if broken up a little more. Which could have been an issue I ran into because I listened to the audiobook instead of reading the hardcopy. I also found some of the tangent, although sort of related, stories that Cooper included to be a little too much. However, the intrigue and mystery surrounding the story really came alive through Cooper’s writing. Unfortunately, the ending and the conclusion of the crime felt very anticlimactic in both reality and how the information was presented in the book. While well written, I just felt unsatisfied upon finishing the book, which I guess I can’t really blame the story for. I would still recommend this one, but I would maybe suggest try reading the hardcopy first.


While I overall enjoyed all three of these true crime novels, I don’t know that I’m going to really go searching for more non fiction true crime novels to read. They are books that I definitely need to be in the mood for and the right mindset.

Have you read any of these? What were your thoughts? What’s a favorite true crime book of yours?

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3 thoughts on “Mini Reviews: I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara + American Sherlock by Kate Winkler Dawson + We Keep the Dead Close by Becky Cooper

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