For the Serial Podcaster: The Night Swim

In the age of true crime podcasts, everyone is trying to stay one step ahead of the competition. And for Rachel Krall (a clear play on Sarah Koenig, right down to the savior of the wrongfully convicted), she needs her latest season to be a success.

Enter the small town “he-said, she-said” trial case of a collegiate, Olympic hopeful swimmer accused of raping a sixteen year old girl. Over about 350 pages of artfully executed, intertwining narratives from the present day trial to creepy anonymous letters detailing a possible murder from 25 years ago, interspersed with snippets from the ongoing podcast, you’ll fly through it in a day only to be shocked in the final pages.

While I’ll attempt to endeavor to achieve spoiler free book recommendations, I’ll try to warn you if I ever stray into major plot point betrayal.

More important that the details of the plot and the characters is the way the novel makes you think about how accused rapists and victims are treated. The Night Swim features a predictably good-looking, rich teen who has a bright future as the alleged rapist. The victim is a somewhat popular sixteen year old that had been drinking and made (what some may say) were questionable choices, putting herself in a position to “get into trouble”.

As is the case in the present times, the case is tried by media (both social and traditional) before the trial even begins. Our podcaster guide, Rachel, tries to present an unbiased version of the events in the run up to the trial. And as is also the case in these present times, she manages to piss off both sides regardless of how middle of the road she attempts to stay. At the same time, she’s being “stalked” by a woman who claims her sister was murdered (despite the death being ruled accidental) in the same small town 25 years ago, begging Rachel to look into it to find the truth.

The narrative moves quickly and engagingly while still giving you pause to think about how our justice system is stacked to favor those with time and money and charisma, rather than innocence or guilt. It’ll suck you in and leave you thinking about the system – if it’s truly broken, simply flawed, or acting as it should – long after you’ve finished the book.

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