Unreliable Narrator #2
Considering I grew up in a household where the bookshelves contained only books about serial killers, mass murderers, and special forces survival guides, it’s sort of surprising (or maybe not) that I’ve had little interest in crime books, either true or fictional.
That said, for some reason, my recent reading and listening was almost entirely about the darker side of life. First off was Michelle McNamara’s #1 New York Times bestselling I’ll Be Gone in the Dark. One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer (Harper 2018).
The killer, given the moniker by McNamara herself, was the perpetrator of fifty sexual assaults in California, before heading south to commit 10 ten murders. Michelle, a true crime journalist and armchair detective, became obsessed with finding out the killer’s identity. The books was unfinished at the time of Michelle’s sudden death and the book was pieced together and finished by others who ‘worked’ the case with her.
Considering my aversion to crime novels and true accounts, I was completely drawn into Michelle’s search. I listened to the whole thing over a few days, either tucked up in bed (a creepy listening experience, but recommended!) or on my commute to work. I did get a bit lost at times, mainly when acronyms for the killer shifted from the early days of the case to when Michelle dubbed him the ‘Golden State Killer’, or simply ‘GSK’, but that’s a minor drawback and overall it was a riveting, engaging audiobook. I’ll Be Gone in the Dark is probably 2018’s biggest true crime release, with Michelle’s death adding a certain mystique to the publication. The inclusion of an introduction by Gillian Flynn (read by herself in the audiobook), of Gone Girl fame, adds a little star power to the production.
Usually, I’ll flip-flop genres to avoid getting genre-fatigue, but after listening to I’ll Be Gone in the Dark, I listened to the progenitor of true crime, Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood . Capote’s fiction has never done it for me; I’m more interested in his life (a good biography is Capote by Gerald Clarke.) The book is Capote’s investigation into the 1959 murder of a Kansas farmer, his wife and his children. It made Capote’s name and often overshadows (quite rightly in my opinion) his fiction.
For our team’s first book club we chose Battle Royale by Koushun Takami, narrated by Mark Dacascos. It’s the story of a group of high school kids who find themselves transported to an island in the fictional Republic of Greater East Asia, and ordered to fight to the death (Cf. Lord of the Flies, The Hunger Games et al).
I was a dissenting voice when it came to discussing the book. I thought it was bloated and derivative, often substituting info dumping for characterisation. Most of the team seemed to enjoy it though, and I admit that it was something of a page turner, and I can see why it’s become a cult book in Japan and elsewhere.
So that was my macabre listening over the last few weeks. Check back at the end of September for my next update.