The Night Swim by Megan Goldin
Ever since her true-crime podcast became an overnight sensation and set an innocent man free, Rachel Krall has become a household name–and the last hope for people seeking justice. But she’s used to being recognized for her voice, not her face. Which makes it all the more unsettling when she finds a note on her car windshield, addressed to her, begging for help.
The new season of Rachel’s podcast has brought her to a small town being torn apart by a devastating rape trial. A local golden boy, a swimmer destined for Olympic greatness, has been accused of raping the beloved granddaughter of the police chief. Under pressure to make Season 3 a success, Rachel throws herself into her investigation–but the mysterious letters keep coming. Someone is following her, and she won’t stop until Rachel finds out what happened to her sister twenty-five years ago. Officially, Jenny Stills tragically drowned, but the letters insist she was murdered–and when Rachel starts asking questions, nobody in town wants to answer. The past and present start to collide as Rachel uncovers startling connections between the two cases–and a revelation that will change the course of the trial and the lives of everyone involved.
Electrifying and propulsive, The Night Swim asks: What is the price of a reputation? Can a small town ever right the wrongs of its past? And what really happened to Jenny?
Review by Tanya Kaanta for Love Books Group
The Night Swim by Megan Goldin
The Night Swim is one of those books where I begin without much expectation and finish thoroughly satisfied, constantly thinking about the characters and scenarios. After skimming the promo materials from St. Martin’s Press, I wasn’t sure how this book would read, as I hadn’t heard of the books used for comparison. And while the story is being marketed as suspense, I’d argue it’s more page-turning crime/mystery than thriller.
The Night Swim chronicles two crimes simultaneously. One that happens twenty-five years ago, and the other present day.
The nuts and bolts: A rape trial tears apart the small town of Neapolis. Scott Blair, freshman in college and Olympic bound swimmer is accused of raping a sixteen-year-old girl known to the media as “K,” who is also the granddaughter of the former Police Chief. It’s a case of he said, she said, and Rachel Krall is there to cover the trial through her podcast, Guilty or Not Guilty, “the podcast that puts you in the jury box.”
Across the nation, Rachel Krall’s voice has become ubiquitous with sultry, smart journalistic investigating that uncovers the truth. For this season’s podcast, she pivots from murder to rape. Everyone, she claims, can agree that murder is wrong. But rape always seems to lie in a field of gray.
When Rachel begins her investigation, days before the start of the jury, she finds a fan note on the windshield of her car. The letter is a plea for help, to solve the mystery behind Jenny Stills’ death. Twenty-five years ago, Jenny accidentally drowned. But Hannah Stills is ready to share her memories, however painful they are. Over the course of the present-day trial, Hannah’s letters methodically lure Rachel’s interest until Rachel is simultaneously investigating both crimes.
The book alternates between three different narratives. Third person Rachel, first person Hannah through her letters, and first-person Rachel through her podcasts. For me, the switches of POV work, almost like a Law and Order episode, where the scenes shift from investigation to the courtroom. Moreover, the writing is effortless, pulling me into the heart of both mysteries, calculating who is whom and who did what? And how are these characters related? I know Jenny doesn’t just drown, and I know her story links to the present trial. How it all ties together is the page-turning impetus for me.
While I feel Ms. Goldin examines facets of sexual assault, sexual violence, shaming, privilege, and victim-blaming with respect, integrity, and brutal honesty, it still can be quite triggering to survivors. However, as a survivor myself, these topics must be discussed openly and honestly. Yes, some of the scenes are difficult to read, but Goldin does a valiant job of capturing so many facets of K’s and Jenny’s story.
I’m hoping Rachel Krall’s Guilty or Not Guilty becomes a series, because I’m itching for more.
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