BLURB: After the first season of her true crime podcast became an overnight sensation and set an innocent man free, Rachel Krall is now a household name―and the last hope for thousands of 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 small town of Neapolis is being torn apart by a devastating rape trial. The town’s golden boy, a swimmer destined for Olympic greatness, has been accused of raping a high school student, the beloved granddaughter of the police chief. Under pressure to make Season Three a success, Rachel throws herself into interviewing and investigating―but the mysterious letters keep showing up in unexpected places. 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 insists she was murdered―and when Rachel starts asking questions, nobody seems to want to answer. The past and present start to collide as Rachel uncovers startling connections between the two cases 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?
First things first – I loved The Night Swim. I thought it was topical (as so many books are in these post-#MeToo times), and I enjoyed the dual time story, moving between the current court case Rachel is reporting on for her podcast, and the comparable story she gets dragged into of Jenny, from 25 years previously, and her sister Hannah, still searching for answers to what happened all these years later. Both stories grabbed me – it wasn’t a case of one being much stronger than the other, as is sometimes the case in dual timeline stories.
I have a real weakness for books set in small town America, where everyone of consequence knows everyone else, meaning no-one is truly neutral. The ghosts of the past always haunt the present in such novels, and in this book (like some others set in places like this) it’s a case of the reader trying to figure out who the person from the past is now.
Interspersed in Rachel’s investigations are her podcast episodes, relating the results of her investigations into the court case, and letters from Hannah, tantalizingly left for Rachel, describing what happened that summer all these years ago. She was only a child back then, and some things were beyond her understanding. The fact that her family were poor, and that their mother was dying of cancer, make Jenny – who’s trying to shield her younger sister from what’s going on – even more alone and vulnerable as she attempts to hide what’s happening to her from the rest of her family. She’s alone, with no one to turn to, and so perfect prey for the rich, entitled boys of the town. Her family’s status also makes what happened to her much easier to sweep under the carpet, and for any perpetrators to walk away under the protection of their richer, more powerful families.
Meanwhile, in the present day, it’s a straightforward he said/she said court case that Rachel is reporting on for her podcast. The defendant has a huge amount to lose – not just his liberty. He’s a talented swimmer and could be in line for a place in the next Olympics team, as well as a place at a prestigious college. Again, he’s from a rich and highly influential family who can afford the very best legal representation. Will the prosecution be able to prove their case beyond reasonable doubt if these two people are – as is nearly always the case in rape trials – the only ones who saw and heard what happened? There are some great courtroom scenes in this book which will keep you turning the pages rapidly (I do enjoy some good courtroom drama too!) It’s a book with lots happening – boredom will definitely not be an option! As for one of the reveals at the end – what really happened to Jenny? Who, if anyone, was responsible for what was deemed to be an accidental night-time drowning? – well, it was a satisfying and unexpected twist (and not the only one…) And will the town’s great athletic hope escape justice by buying his way out of the accusations against him…?
Megan Goldin is a hugely talented writer – I gulped this story down, grabbing every spare minute I had to keep reading and discover what happened, both now and 25 years ago. I’ve already bought her very well-reviewed debut novel, The Escape Room, so much did I enjoy this follow-up. I’m looking forward to getting stuck into that one soon, and will be looking out for her future works. Meantime, if you read this polished, very of-the-moment novel, I do hope you enjoy it as much as I did. Highly recommended.
Many thanks to those at St Martin’s Press for inviting me to participate in this blog tour. All views expressed are unbiased.