Hello, everyone! I hope you’re all surviving the hell that is late spring allergies, but if you’re crippled with congestion like me, then I pray that you have some great books to get you through the pain. This month, my chosen reads were as gray and melancholy as that muggy month we supposedly call May. Why so many showers, huh May? I though that was April’s thing! One bleak true crime, a disappointingly scattered mystery, and a depressing lost child narrative rounded out my faux May. What did you guys read this month?
I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara
Quick Summary: The true-crime narrative details crime blogger Michelle McNamara’s intense search for the identity of the Golden State Killer, a serial rapist and murderer who terrorized California for almost three decades.
My thoughts: I’ll Be Gone in the Dark reads like a novel. The prose is dynamic, descriptive, and chilling. McNamara was instrumental in taking the disconnected crime sprees of the East Area Rapist and the Original Night Stalker and weaving them into a coherent narrative. She also was the first writer to give this rather unknown monster a catchy name, and her writings helped renew interest in the case and finally solve the mystery of the man’s identity. I enjoyed the book. It’s thoroughly detailed, filled with uncanny portaits of the essential players, including the cops, victims, and the victim’s families whose lives were ruined by this unknown man. What McNamara does most successfully, and what is perhaps her most important contribution to this case, is create a consistent profile of the Golden State Killer for the public. She ties together dozens of witness descriptions and police reports to bring this shadow man to life. Without this book, it’s unclear whether the Sacramento police would ever have caught him. That said, the book does have flaws. It feels unfinished, but that’s not McNamara’s fault. McNamara actually died unexpectedly before the book was finished, and before the GSK was caught, so the finished manuscript was compiled and edited by her husband and another writer. Even though McNamara is a gifted writer, her prose can’t stop the book from feeling like a story half-told. It makes me yearn for the book that McNamara would have written had she lived: a triumphant chronicle of the successful search for the GSK.
To read or not to read? Definitely read if you’re a true crime fan. McNamara’s passion for the case rings through her writing. And if you’re not a fan of cold cases, still give it a look. She was an amazing writer whose last work deserves all the attention it can get.
The Perfect Mother by Aimee Molloy
Quick Summary: After Winnie’s baby Midas is kidnapped from his crib while she’s out at a bar with her mommy group, the May Mothers, the lives of Winnie and the rest of the group are thrown into the spotlight. Where is Midas, and what does Winnie have to do with his disappearance? The search for the missing baby digs deep into these seemingly perfect mothers’ inner lives and exposes the hypocrisies of modern motherhood.
My thoughts: This was a DNF (did not finish). I had a hard time getting into this book or connecting to the characters. There were way too many perspectives and Molloy’s prose comes off as scattered. I was initially hesitant to pick up this book because I find it very difficult to read books about missing children, but this novel seemed to completely lack the fear and heartbreak associated with those storylines. There was no real emotion to this story. The characters are flat, the revelations about modern motherhood are cliché, and the mystery is boring. I stopped about half-way through and read the end on Goodreads. It was definitely not compelling enough to make me try and finish it.
To read or not to read? There are way too many better murder mysteries that tackle motherhood and murder out there to waste your time reading this book. Skip it.
Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell
Quick Summary: Laurel Mack has never gotten over her daughter Ellie’s disappearance. When Ellie’s bones are found almost a decade after her case grew cold, and Laurel meets a handsome new stranger named Floyd, it seems like Laurel is finally getting the closure she has been waiting for. There’s something eerily familiar about Floyd’s young daughter, Poppy, however. She looks just like Ellie. Who is Floyd, and what does his precocious daughter have in common with Laurel’s?
My thoughts: This novel surprised me by how emotionally drained I felt after reading it. Like I said above, I’m usually hesitant to read novels about lost children because they’re just so so sad (especially since most of them never come back home), but I guess I just wasn’t expecting the uniquely disturbing twist in this novel. In a lot of ways the plot is conventional. I knew who the culprit was from the first chapter, but I didn’t expect the ending to the story itself. It’s a mystery that’s hardly a mystery, but I don’t feel like it was Jewell’s intention to make the mystery the primary focus. It was more about the heartbreak of losing a child and a woman attempting to restart a paused life. Jewell’s a strong writer. I felt like she tried her best to really understand her characters and do them justice. It wasn’t the most exciting or unpredictable mystery I’ve ever read, but it was clean and simple and sometimes that’s really all you want from a good book.
To read or not to read? Read it.