Everyone in our book group found this a gripping read.
Set in a small American town the novel runs two storylines side by side. The first is told by the narrator, Rachel, a successful true-crime podcaster who is there for a rape trial that has shocked and divided the community. The second is a story told to Rachel, in a series of letters, of a mysterious death 25 years earlier.
The letter writer is a woman called Hannah, who left the town when she was a 10-year-old girl after her sister drowned and her mother died of cancer. She has a secret she’s been keeping for 25 years and she wants Rachel’s help to disclose it.
As the letters keep arriving it’s as if Rachel is being stalked and almost against her will she is drawn into investigating the cold case. When she starts asking questions she’s stonewalled, which of course makes her dig harder, and it’s not long before she realises both cases have marked similarities and are probably linked.
The two storylines are cleverly intertwined with some good plot twists, and the oddly passionless writing style highlights the tensions in both. In the end the cases merge in an unexpected way which caught all of us by surprise.
Given that this story deals with rape it’s perhaps not surprising that some of the characters felt a bit predictable – the over-entitled defendant and his unlikeable lawyer, a cranky judge, the fragile victim and a stern prosecutor. But behind these surface considerations we felt the rape was dealt with fairly and sympathetically. As Feebs said, rape is a tricky subject in almost every culture, and especially so in the trial-by-drama court system of the USA.
Before becoming a novelist, Megan Goldin worked as a foreign correspondent in Asia and Middle East, where she covered war zones and wrote about war, peace and international terrorism. This might go some way to explaining how she manages to convey the effects of violence and sexual assault on the victims so well.
Why we liked it
Although Rachel is really just the vehicle for telling this story, we liked her. As Freyja commented: “She’s not just a dumb blonde, she gets things done” and we felt it made a nice change to have a young, believable protagonist who wasn’t a detective.
This isn’t a run-of-the-mill crime novel. It has a good, twisty plot that draws you in and makes it hard to put the book down. In fact, we all agreed this is a compelling story and a book we’d recommend to our friends. You can’t say fairer than that.
Review by: Oundle Crime
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