I Know Who You Are: How an Amateur DNA Sleuth Unmasked the Golden State Killer and Changed Crime Fighting Forever
EDGAR AWARD FINALIST • “A true-crime masterpiece written by a cold-case-cracking master.”—John Douglas, New York Times bestselling co-author of Mindhunter
“Barbara Rae-Venter isn’t just the genealogy expert who helped capture the Golden State Killer—she’s an unsung hero who has given murdered women and children their faces and names back.”—Maureen Callahan, New York Times bestselling author of American Predator
“Echoes the dedication displayed by such fictional police detectives as California novelist Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch.”—The Wall Street Journal
For twelve years the Golden State Killer terrorized California, stalking victims and killing without remorse. Then he simply disappeared, for the next forty-four years, until an amateur DNA sleuth opened her laptop. In I Know Who You Are, Barbara Rae-Venter reveals how she went from researching her family history as a retiree to hunting for a notorious serial killer—and how she became the nation’s leading authority on investigative genetic genealogy, the most dazzling new crime-fighting weapon to appear in decades.
Rae-Venter shares haunting, often thrilling accounts of how she helped solve some of America’s most chilling cold cases in the span of just three years, frequently starting with little more than a DNA sample. She brings readers inside her unique “grasshopper mind” as she pores through obituaries, marriage records, and old newspaper articles. Readers join in on urgent calls with sheriﬀs, FBI agents, and district attorneys as she details the struggle to obtain usable crime scene DNA samples, until, ﬁnally, a critical piece of the puzzle clicks into place.
I Know Who You Are captures both the exhilaration of these discoveries and the deep-rooted emotions that linger around cold cases. It is a story of relentless curiosity and reinvention, and of human beings striving to answer the most elemental questions about themselves: What deﬁnes identity? Where do we belong? And are we truly who we think we are?
Praise for I Know Who You Are: How an Amateur DNA Sleuth Unmasked the Golden State Killer and Changed Crime Fighting Forever
“Like a good crime writer, Ms. Rae-Venter has a gift for storytelling. . . . Her scientific explanations are concise and her revelations are dramatic. I Know Who You Are is a remarkably exciting book. . . . Her description of the obsessive zeal with which she sought this personification of evil echoes the dedication displayed by such fictional police detectives as California novelist Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch.”—The Wall Street Journal
“A lucid and entertaining detective story . . . Rae-Venter is a scientist at heart, and driven by a scientist’s particular, almost possessive hunger for knowledge.”—Slate
“A gripping story tracing the hundreds of hours spent rifling through people’s family ties to find killers and identify bodies.”—Nature
“In a very crowded field of hard-to-distinguish true-crime offerings, Rae-Venter’s title provides a unique and edge-of-your seat insider’s account of the case she calls, accurately so, ‘a dividing line between the past and the future’ for law enforcement.”—ABA Journal
“I Know Who You Are is a true-crime masterpiece written by a cold-case-cracking master. This page-turner takes readers inside the web of lies spun by the worst criminal minds and reveals the path to solving the country’s most notorious crimes. It's an epic read and a searingly important story.”—John Douglas, New York Times bestselling co-author of Mindhunter: Inside the FBI’s Elite Serial Crime Unit
“This book is an invaluable addition to the true-crime genre.”—Maureen Callahan, New York Times bestselling author of American Predator: The Hunt for the Most Meticulous Serial Killer of the 21st Century
“I Know Who You Are is a propulsive true-crime thriller that takes the reader deep inside the manhunt for one of the most terrifying serial killers in American history. Barbara Rae-Venter’s admirable work as a DNA sleuth provided the searing heat that melted the coldest of cold cases.”—Casey Sherman, New York Times bestselling author of Helltown: The Untold Story of a Serial Killer on Cape Cod
“With urgency and insight, Barbara Rae-Venter tells the unlikely story of a retired patent attorney whose obsessive, scientific mind transformed her from a genealogical hobbyist into the who helped identify one of America’s most notorious serial killers.”—Libby Copeland, author of The Lost Family: How DNA Testing Is Upending Who We
“[Rae-Venter] tells the story the world has been waiting to hear in her mesmerizing memoir. . . .”—BookPage (starred review)
“A remarkable account . . . It’s an eye-opening and thought-provoking contribution to the true crime genre.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Fascinating true-crime reportage infused with cinematic suspense . . .”—Kirkus Reviews