In The Night Swim, a new thriller from Megan Goldin, author of the “gripping and unforgettable” (Harlen Coben) The Escape Room, a true crime podcast host covering a controversial trial finds herself drawn deep into a small town’s dark past and a brutal crime that took place there years before.
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?
Swimming in the ocean at night is hazardous, and it also sets the perfect tone for this thriller that I literally couldn’t put down. The Night Swim gripped me from page one and quickly entangled me in this complex story of wrongs done, lies told, and coverups accomplished.
What I Loved
I loved the uniqueness of the book format. Rachel Krall hosts a popular true-crime podcast, and the story includes the written transcript of her currents seasons installments. I enjoyed the mix of mediums that breaks up the story while still propelling it forward. The podcast transcripts are spot-on, sounding much more conversational than the rest of the story and adding little bursts of 1st person narration. Hannah’s letters also served a similar function but in her distinctive voice and are a great contrast to the podcast – the podcasts being for public consumption while the letters are for Rachel’s eyes only.
The story is in third-person limited narration, which works great to showcase the first-person interludes of the podcasts and letters. I usually love an excellent first-person unreliable narrator in my psychological thrillers. However, with this story’s format, I can’t imagine the narration being any other way and still being as effective as it is. It sets up the perfect foil for those first-person components.
I also loved the mystery within the mystery that is intricately and deceptively interconnected. They both kept me guessing throughout the story without any lull in the suspense. For as much as I know through Hannah’s letters and the podcast interviews, I quickly realized that there is a great deal that I don’t know, and this makes the pages turn quickly to fulfill that desire to find out.
The Night Swim is a story about injustices. Injustice in a society that doesn’t treat rape with the same ferocity that it treats murder. Injustice in the criminal system that metaphorically rapes victims of rape by putting them through humiliating scrutiny and making them relive the crime on the stand. Rape is such a profoundly personal crime, by its very nature, and this reality creates a situation that is ripe with injustice. (TW: there is a rape scene described by a character that witnessed it in the past.)
The main character, Rachel Krall, is my favorite character in the story. She took her career as a crime reporter and turned it into the first true-crime podcast where she has helped solve cases that have gone unsolved or solved incorrectly. She is strong and confident, not afraid to muddy the waters if it means that the truth will become crystal clear. I loved her compassion and determination, and a series where she continues to be the main character doing what she’s doing would rapidly rise to my must-preorder list.
To Read or Not to Read
The Night Swim is an excellent psychological thriller for people new to the genre without disappointing those readers who already love the style. It is an exciting read with intricacies and layers that will have me talking about and reflecting on it for weeks to come.
Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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