The Night Swim by Megan Goldin

‘That’s the thing about mistakes.  Not all of them can be fixed.’

Rachel Krall ‘s true-crime podcast became an overnight sensation after it resulted in an innocent man being set free.  And plenty of people would like Rachel’s help.  But it is her voice people recognise usually, not her face, which makes it unsettling when she finds a note addressed to her on her car windscreen begging for help.  Rachel is heading to the small North Carolina town of Neapolis where an upcoming rape trial will be the subject of the third season of her podcast Guilty or Not Guilty.

The people in the town of Neapolis are polarised by the case.  A local boy, destined to be an Olympic swimmer, has been accused of raping the granddaughter of the former police chief.  Rachel is determined to report the case objectively, but she keeps receiving letters from a woman called Hannah.  Hannah wants Rachel’s help to find out what happened to her sister Jenny Stills in the town of Neapolis 25 years earlier.  Officially, Jenny drowned but Hannah is sure that she was murdered.

‘It was Jenny’s death that killed my mother.’

The story alternates between Hannah and Rachel, between past and present.  While focussed on the present-day case, Rachel is drawn to Jenny’s case.  She starts asking questions and runs into a wall of resistance.  Hannah’s letters, Rachel’s narrative and parts of her podcast keep the story moving.  A number of those who were young when Jenny died hold positions of power in Neapolis now.  And almost no-one seems to have a kind word (or memory) of Jenny.  She has been judged and dismissed.  Rachel keeps investigating.  In both cases there are inconsistencies.  There are also similarities.  What is the truth?  Is the swimmer guilty of rape?  Was Jenny murdered?

This novel held my attention from beginning to end.  I worked out some aspects before the end but was pleased, overall, with the conclusion. To say more might spoil the story.

Note: My thanks to NetGalley and St Martin’s Press for providing me with a free electronic copy of this book for review purposes. 

Jennifer Cameron-Smith