Posts Tagged ‘Gone at Midnight’

I’ve never reviewed a true crime book on my blog before. As you well know, I tend to specialize in horror of the fictional variety. But for a while now, since first hearing of the Cecil Hotel (which made one of my lists of haunted places to visit) and the death of Elisa Lam there in 2013, I’ve wanted to learn more than what I could glean from a ten minute YouTube video or from reading the Wikipedia page. And earlier this year, someone finally released a book about the case. Despite mixed reviews, I decided to buy a copy, and read it over the course of my vacation.

Here are my thoughts.

Gone at Midnight focuses on the case of Elisa Lam, a Chinese-Canadian student who disappeared in early 2013 in Los Angeles. Several days after her disappearance is reported, she is found dead in one of the water tanks of the infamous Cecil Hotel, a location known as “The Suicide” for its history of violent deaths and even having serial killers as residents at certain points. The incident is only made weirder by the release of footage from a hotel elevator showing Elisa acting strangely on the night she disappeared. Author Jake Anderson traces Elisa’s path over the last two years of her life, as well as how the case took a viral life of its own with websleuths on the Internet and the many problems with the police conclusion on the case.

I have to say, Anderson does a very good job of writing a convincing narrative. The book could easily have gone into the deep end a la The Mothman Prophecies by John Keel, with talk of synchronicity, paranormal happenings at the hotel, and theoretical physics, among other subjects. However, he keeps the narrative on track, only bringing up the weirder aspects as they relate to the case of Lam’s death and his own investigation into the case as a journalist. Anderson also does a terrific job of laying out the various problems with the police’s conclusion, and offers several alternative possibilities about what may have happened.

His reconstructions of what Lam may have been thinking during her final years (something I’ve found in a lot of true crime I’ve read), based on her many blog posts, also has an eerie authenticity to it. And his examination of the websleuth community, the pros and cons of the movement and how it all relates to Lam, is quite interesting. I wouldn’t be surprised if this book is used later for a sociological study into websleuthing.

There is one major criticism I have, and it’s one I share with a lot of other critics of the book: Anderson spends a lot of time on his own mental health. And while in some places it’s relevant to what we’re reading about, at other times it’s distracting. I understand why he did it: like Lam, the author has his own mental disorders, and his struggles strengthened the kinship he felt with Lam, despite having never met her. I too feel a strange kinship with Lam: not only was she a little older than me when she died, I also have my share of mental struggles, and enjoy writing and blogging like she did, among other things.

However, as I said, it’s distracting at times, and I feel like Anderson’s struggle with his mental state, while relevant, should have been kept in a foreward or afterward to the book, or maybe even in an essay published separately from the book.

All told, Gone at MIdnight: The Mysterious Death of Elisa Lam┬áby Jake Anderson is as of this moment the definitive book on the Lam case, and deserves to be so. On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving the book a 4.3. After reading this, I’m going to be doing a bit more research into the case, but Anderson might have me convinced on his take on the Lam case.

Grab a copy, take a deep breath, and jump right in. You’ll find yourself on a roller coaster that may, as it did for me, hit close to home.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’m finally back from my trip, so I’ll be posting quite a bit over the next two weeks (especially since I’m quarantining myself to make sure I didn’t catch anything). Keep an eye out for more reviews, breakdowns of the paranormal activity I encountered, the places I visited, updates on my writing, and so much more.

Until next time, stay safe and pleasant nightmares!