In Light of All Darkness
Inside the Polly Klaas Kidnapping and the Search for America's Child
by Kim Cross
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Pub Date 03 Oct 2023 | Archive Date 03 Nov 2023
On October 1, 1993, a 12-year-old girl was kidnapped at knifepoint from her bedroom in Petaluma, California, during a sleepover with two friends, while her mother slept soundly in the room next door. This rarest of all kidnappings—a stranger abduction from the home—triggered one of the largest manhunts in FBI history. Riddled with red herrings, grave mistakes, dead ends, and false leads, from fake ransom calls to junior high pranks to dramatic SWAT raids, the 65-day search for “America’s Child” became every FBI agent’s—and every parent’s—worst nightmare.
Many Americans remember Polly's face, which appeared on the national news every night, on the cover of People magazine, and on more than 8 million flyers distributed as far as China. The emotional gravity of Polly’s story touched every agent, police officer, and forensic technician who worked on her case. Many of these investigators have never shared their stories—until now.
New York Times bestselling author Kim Cross has written the first comprehensive account of what happened on that fateful night in October, as well as how the case forever transformed the Bureau’s approach to solving crimes. With unprecedented access to files, crime scene photos, a videotaped murder confession, and inside sources, In Light of All Darkness follows the investigators who pieced together the evidence that led to the arrest and conviction of the kidnapper—a man currently on death row—and made the victim a household name and a girl who will never be forgotten. The book will be published on the 30th anniversary of Polly's disappearance.
Available on NetGalley
Average rating from 47 members
I didn’t know a lot about Polly Klaas and this book does a great job in educating me about the case. The book was written perfectly and I thought it worked well overall as a true crime book. Kim Cross does a great job in writing and researching this.
I vividly remember the flyers in our northern California counties and towns and how we all hoped together and were heartbroken together for Polly and her family and friends.
In Light of All Darkness was the most well-written true-crime book I've ever read. The flow was logical and every single word on every page was perfectly placed. I'm so glad we got to see Polly's life, and not just her death. We also see the impact her case had on law enforcement investigative and interview procedures; the absolute disparity in media coverage depending on the ethnicity of the victim; as well as the effect for good or ill on the justice and prison systems.
Thanks to Netgally for the opportunity to read this advance copy in exchange for my unbiased review.
This non-fiction book is a stand-out in the true crime genre. Cross does a masterful job examining the investigation of the Polly Klaas kidnapping and murder. Her extensive research goes into great detail of not only how the case played out but also the long-lasting effects the case had on police/FBI investigations moving forward.
The book is hard to read at times because the subject is so disturbing (details of the crime aren't graphic, but are harrowing nonetheless). However, there's actually a thread of hope that runs throughout the storytelling - largely in part in connection to the resilient nature of the human spirit and the generosity that arose from Klaas' murder. The way the community and the country at large worked together to find her and to bring about justice is inspiring.
I'd be very interested to see what subject Cross decides to tackle next. Her attention to detail and her ability to look at issues in an overarching way is intriguing. Plus, her sensitivity with the topic lent the book much-needed heart (which can be lacking from some non-fiction books). I'd recommend this book to anyone interested in this case or in how some high-profile cases can have a ripple effect on how crimes are solved moving forward.
In the notes at the back of the book, Cross says that she strived to make this book factual, unbiased, and free of salacious details and opinions. She delivered.
This read left me with a pit in my stomach, an ache of sadness, injustice, and anxiety. While we're left with many positive side-effects from Polly's case, I can't help but think about how none of it would be necessary if people weren't so cruel.
By writing IN LIGHT OF ALL DARKNESS, Kim Cross set out to create the "book of record" for the Polly Klaas case, the early nineties Northern California kidnapping case that made international headlines and forced us all to reconsider the prudence of leaving our doors unlocked at night. She succeeded.
This was an excellent book, no doubt due in some part to Cross's unique personal connections: she is the daughter-in-law of one of the case's top FBI investigators, and therefore benefits from unprecedented access to sources and materials. That being said, this is a case with many avenues of interest and points of examination, and it's easy to see how some writers might have floundered under its breadth; Cross must be commended for masterfully threading together an easy-to-read, accessible, totally unbiased and objective narrative, which covered not only the investigation of Polly's disappearance and the case's legal aftermath, but also the enormous community response. This was a landmark true crime case for many reasons, but for the group of people directly involved in it and directly affected by it, it was life-changing.
Cross never lets us forget this, and more to the point, perhaps for the first time, we are finally able to hear this story in their own words and voices.
This book was incredible. It told the story from beginning to end about the kidnapping of Polly Klaas. This story touched many people’s lives and all of the people involved in solving the case. The book was a page turner and would make a great book discussion to see what other readers think. I can’t wait to read more books by Kim Cross.
This is such a necessary book. I appreciated the author telling the kidnapping and murder of Polly Klaas with grace and dignity. I also appreciated insight into the aftermath of the crime. Well researched and written.
Wow! I think that’s best, most concise review I can give. Kim Cross provides masterly insight into a national tragedy that truly changed the fabric of American life. Even well-seasoned true crime aficionados will learn something from this book. The writing is evocative and the tone is somber, yet engaging. It should be required reading for all true crime authors.