Blog Tour – August 2020 – The Night Swim – Megan Goldin

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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.

Blog Tour – August 2020 – One White Lie – Leah Konen

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BLURB: Imagine you’ve just escaped the worst relationship of your life with only a suitcase and a black eye – and you’re terrified what will happen if he finds you.

Imagine your new neighbours are the friends you so desperately need – until you hear a rumour about them that you’re sure can’t possibly be true.

Imagine late one night they say they need your help. They have a plan to keep all of you safe, and they just need you to tell one small lie.

You’d do it. Wouldn’t you?

It’s only one white lie, until someone turns up dead . . .

This is one of these novels that’s really hard to review, lest you drop any spoilers along the way. First of all, did I enjoy it? Yes. It’s got an intriguing cast of characters. It’s also set in Woodstock, north of New York, which is one of these settings I just love in American-set novels – a small town where everyone thinks they know everyone’s business, but conversely they all have lots of secrets.

When 20-something Lucy moves to a cottage just outside of town (conveniently she’s a writer of magazine and web articles, so geographically she’s not tied down) to escape a nasty – and relentless – partner, she becomes fast friends with Vera and John, her nearest neighbours. They’re around 40 and childless. John paints, and his wife runs a gallery in town selling his work, and that of other artists. There’s also Maggie, a pensioner, and further along, Rachel, who previously rented Lucy’s new home. She had been best friends with Vera and John before something caused a sudden severing of this relationship – although Rachel still seems to have a soft spot for Vera. This, however, definitely does not seem to be reciprocated…

It’s when Lucy visits town (yes, it is the Woodstock of the famous festival, and gets by trading on it’s legendary hippy festival past and as a weekender town for New Yorkers, who are none too popular with the locals.) They, however, appear to reserve the majority of their vitriol for John and Vera – and it’s definitely not because of where they’re from… However, the new arrival becomes fast friends with her closest neighbours – indeed, the three are soon inseparable, going hiking, and sharing dinner and drinks more nights than not. She begins to regard them as her “family” (which seemed a tad foolhardy, given how her last relationship ended, but the couple are open, charming and welcoming.) She’s even warned by Maggie, her nearest neighbour, that they’re worth watching and all out for themselves – and that’s at the end of Chapter Two! But Lucy is clearly more charitable, deciding to take her neighbours as she finds them.

This is where I’m going to have to cease writing about the plot, and leave you to discover where that goes. But remember, always lurking in the background is Lucy’s abusive and controlling ex, Davis, and her fear that he’ll track her down – no matter how well she hides herself away.

I pretty much romped through this book in four big chunks (the old eyes were beginning to get gritty every night before I put it down!) The author – who has previously written YA novels, but this is her debut adult work – knows exactly how to wrongfoot you, so your alliances are forever shifting. I guess it qualifies as domestic noir, or perhaps just calling it a psychological thriller would suffice. It would make perfect reading for a long journey, or for a holiday (although it doesn’t look like many of us will be looking forward to seeing exotic locales this summer!)

It’s definitely one of the better of these sort of novels I’ve read recently, and if you’re anything like me, you’ve probably read more than a few! The setting may also be one of the reasons I enjoyed it so much – so if you’re a fan of psychological thrillers set in small American towns, you’ll probably be a fan of it. Leah Konen has clearly had some success in the Young Adult market. With this evidence, I can see her enjoying considerable success in the adult one too.

My thanks to those at Penguin Random House for inviting me to participate in this blog tour, and Netgalley. The views expressed are my own and uninfluenced by anyone else.