How An Unfinished Book Was Pieced Together To Make Kintsugi

In 2006, Michelle McNamara started the website True Crime Diary with the goal of crowdsourcing cold cases. As the About page states, “True Crime Diary began when Michelle McNamara, a writer, decided the investigating she was doing on unsolved crimes to satisfy her own curiosity might be better shared.”

Michelle eventually became obsessed with a series of unsolved rapes and murders across California from 1976-1986. The man she called “The Golden State Killer” had never been caught.

She spent 5 years obsessing over the horrific case; running down every lead, meeting with investigators, collecting the mountains of evidence into a searchable database, and working tirelessly on a book named after a threat the killer had said to one of victims. “You’ll be silent forever and I’ll be gone in the dark.”

“There’s a scream permanently lodged in my throat now,” she wrote of the emotional toll the dark work was taking on her. In fact, unbeknownst to her husband she had begun relying on a cocktail of prescription drugs, which combined with an undiagnosed heart condition resulted in her death on April 21, 2016. The book wasn’t finished.

Michelle’s widower, comedian Patton Oswalt worked to make his own kintsugi in dealing with grief through comedy.


But he refused to let Michelle’s work end with her death. As the New York Times reported, “…Mr. Oswalt recruited Billy Jensen, an investigative journalist, and Paul Haynes, who worked closely with Ms. McNamara on the book as a researcher, to comb through her handwritten notes and the roughly 3,500 files on her computer and piece together the story she set out to tell…”

“Rather than attempting to mimic her voice and flesh out fragmentary chapters, or condense her sprawling research into a taut true crime narrative, Mr. Haynes and Mr. Jensen let the jagged edges of the unfinished project show…”


In other words, they took the broken pieces and made kintsugi.
The power of making kintsugi in life cannot be overstated. Our ability to reframe and tell better stories about our lives is how we learn, grow, survive, and triumph. Not only has it helped Michelle’s family grieve her death, but her obsession drew a lot of attention to the deaths and victimizations of many others. Michelle was never interested in personal glory or credit. Like a true Mixed Mental Artist, she only cared about uncovering the answers.


On April 24, 2018 a suspect whose DNA matches The Golden State Killer was arrested.