A review by justinkhchen
The Nothing Man by Catherine Ryan Howard


3 stars

Too much of a fact-by-fact replay of its true crime inspiration, The Nothing Man is basically a thinly-veiled fictionalization of the Golden State Killer, AKA Joseph James DeAngelo, a serial killer/rapist active during the 70s and 80s, and finally arrested in 2018 with newly discovered evidence. Other than swapping California to locations in Ireland, and altering a couple statistics, the novel shows very little of the author's actual creative interpretation. The perpetrator had the same m.o. as its real-life counterpart, down to sharing the same setups to the various crimes committed. Even though it is told in a creative, book-within-book format, I would still think it's possibly more immersive consuming the story from a more direct source, including an actual nonfiction written by a woman searching for the killer's identity, I'll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara.

Written by an Irish author based in Ireland, I can perhaps understand The Nothing Man's appeal in its home country (or outside the US in general), where the crimes it referenced might not be as well-known. But as a US-based reader, the Golden State Killer has had its moment in the spotlight, with numerous reports, podcasts and documentaries reiterating its details; under that context, The Nothing Man feels like an unnecessary redundancy that thinly altered the facts without being truly inspired by them.

If you're interested in the real case, I would recommend the 6-part coverage made by the podcast Casefile.