Saturday, May 30, 2020

With the success of the first season of Serial, interest in true crime podcasts exploded. I myself am a huge fan of the genre, and never miss an episode of True Crime All the Time, My Favorite Murder, Casefile or Murder Mile (among many others).  I was interested to read The Night Swim, because the main character, Rachel Krall is a true crime podcaster.  Her podcast, Guilty or Not Guilty, has gained a cult following and made her a star, although she guards her identity and no one really knows what she looks like.  That's why, when she goes to the town of Neapolis, North Carolina, to cover a court case for her the new season of her show, she is unnerved when notes begin appearing on her car begging her to investigate a suspicious death from long ago.

The current case that Rachel is covering involves a rape trial.  In a case based loosely on a recent well-known event, a star athlete from a well-connected local family has been charged with assaulting a local high school girl.  He denies the charges, and the town is split among those who support the young man, and those who believe the young woman.  Rachel is attending the trial and then summarizing it daily on her podcast.  Her usual sidekick Pete (the Steven! of the set-up, if you will) has been hospitalized after an accident, so she is working alone.

After the success of her podcast, many people have reached out to Rachel to ask for help in investigating murders and disappearances of their loved ones.  The requests have become so overwhelming that form letters are sent out to those who write in, offering sympathy but little else.  So when notes begin appearing for Rachel, on her car and at her hotel, she is unnerved . . . but also intrigued.  The writer asks Rachel to investigate the death of her sister some 25 years ago in the same town where Rachel finds herself for the trial.  The story moves between the current rape trial and the story of the dead girl from the past.  Hannah, the younger sister of the dead girl, tells her own story in alternating chapters:  how her sister Jenny died, how Jenny’s death devastated her family, and how she’s never stopped trying to get justice for her dead sister.

The events, mirrored on similar incidents that have been in the news recently, helped to give the book a real sense of timeliness.  It is uncomfortable reading about the abuse of some of the young women in the story, but the attitudes and divisions in the small town mirror what goes on all too often in situations where the misdeeds of some are covered up or excused by those with the power to do so. 

I received an Advance Readers’ Edition of The Night Swim from the publisher in exchange for this review.


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I'm a librarian who is interested in all things British. I try to visit London as often as possible, and am always planning my next trip. I lived in Sweden for a few years with my Swedish husband, so the occasional Swedish reference may occur . . .

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The Gherkin Scale

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4gherkinsb Good, innit?

3gherkinsb Fair to middlin'

2gherkinsb Has some good points

1gherkin Oi! Wot you playin' at?

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