Michelle McNamara makes it clear that her goal in writing the book was to help get justice for the rape and murder victims. She speaks movingly about the high costs for the survivors and for the families of those who died.
The victims recede from view. Their rhythm is off, their confidence drained. They’re laden with phobias and made tentative by memory. Divorce and drugs beset them. Statutes of limitations expire. Evidence kits are tossed for lack of room. What happened to them is buried, bright and unmoving, a coin at the bottom of a pool. They do their best to carry on.
One of the challenges was that the killer they were looking for was a specific, highly unusual type: not impulsive, not disorganized, and mostly likely not known by the victims. The more common type of
offenders are usually identified and arrested. It’s a tiny minority of criminals, maybe 5 percent, who present the biggest challenge—the ones whose crimes reveal preplanning and unremorseful rage.
Although McNamara herself was not a police officer, she had written about crime for years, and maintained a True Crime blog. As she became more involved in the case, she was at first tentative about acceptance by the police, some of whom had worked the case twenty-five years before. She was not fully confident that the kinds of leads she was following might be productive.
For advice I turned to the retired detectives who’d worked on the case, many of whom I’d come to consider friends . . . The old guys had to stop, but they insisted I go on. I lamented to one of them that I felt that I was grasping at straws.
“My advice? Grasp a straw,” he said. “Work it to dust.”