Night Swim is a tough review to write as it blends the most heartless, ugliest, damaging, atrocity, with a compelling mystery to investigate crimes committed in both the present and the past. An unsettling novel that illuminates the very deep sense of blame, depravity, vicious physical and psychological damage, horror, and loss, that crimes of rape causes.
Podcast host, Rachel Krall’s latest project in her true-crime series is to cover the rape case of the popular Olympic swimming hopeful, Scott Blair, as he is accused of raping a sixteen-year-old girl, K.
“I’m Rachel Krall and this is ‘Guilty or Not Guilty’, the podcast that puts you in the jury box.”
Rachel travels to the small town of Neapolis in North Carolina, where feelings are mixed and news passes through the community in a way every close-knit community experiences. While in Neapolis, another woman, Hannah Stiles, starts secretly leaving packages with information about her sister Jenny, who she believes was raped and murdered, twenty-five years ago. Gradually Rachel feels compelled to investigate this murder and drag up old stories and suspicions. The heart-breaking aspect of this investigation is the reputational damage to Jenny as a licentious girl who accidentally drowns at sea. As Rachel and Hannah provide the narrative throughout the novel flipping back and forward over the twenty-five-year period the plot thickens, the suspense rises, the suspicions increase, the truth becomes clear and always there is this sin that hangs over the town that evil lurks. This is especially difficult for Jenny riddled with guilt and sorrow who can’t really move on with her own life when her older sister’s was taken away so brutally.
Megan Goldin approaches the crime of rape very sensitively but ensures that she paints an authentic portrayal of the emotional impact on the victim in terms of both the offence and the courtroom trial to be endured. In another, he said she said situation the uncovering of new information and evidence as the trial progresses seems to only way to achieve justice. A difficult task considering the Blair family has financial resources and power to pay for the best legal representation and manipulate support within the community.
Rachel plays a wonderful role in covering the current courtroom trial with K and the investigation into the old rape case of Jenny. Night Swim is a fascinating and absorbing story that manages a wonderful balance between sensitivity and faithfulness to the crime of rape, while also delivering an intriguing mystery that unearths secrets that the perpetrators hoped to keep hidden.
A truly unforgettable story that is one of the best this year. I would like to thank Megan Goldin, St Martin’s Press and NetGalley for providing me with a free ARC in return for an honest review.