Book Review: The Night Swim by Megan Goldin

47590265I am shaken after this read. Wow. I feel so lucky to have received a copy of this book for an early review by St. Martin’s Press and NetGalley. Thank you! My heart is still pounding.
There’s nothing more satisfying after a good read than the chills left in the wake of a captivating story. The Night Swim is a contemporary mystery novel that follows Rachel Krall, a famous true crime podcaster known for her superlative ability to crack unsolved and unjustified crimes, where she puts the audience in the jury box. Rachel is summoned as an unbiased jury member to cover a trial in a small town called Neapolis, where a town favorite, golden boy and Olympic prospect name Scott Blair is accused of a sexual crime against a sixteen-year-old girl.
Rachel accepts and travels to Neapolis and decides to dedicate her third season of her highly praised podcast, “Guilty Or Not Guilty” to it.
Rachel encounters more adventure than anticipated upon arriving to Neapolis. Barely hours making it into town, a strange letter appears on her windshield at a truck stop. It’s from a listener named Hannah Stills, desperate for help to solve her older sister’s death from exactly twenty-five years ago to this date. Hannah believes her sister, Jenny, was murdered, but the case was blown off by police and trials, never had a chance to be investigated. Rachel doesn’t scare often, but as hard as she’s worked to maintain her anonymity and privacy, always mindful of never revealing her face or location, she’s slightly shaken by this letter. How has she been found? And to add to that, no one other than her assistant, Pete, knew Rachel would be in Neapolis.
Rachel tries to forget about this letter but Hannah is unrelenting. Rachel wakes up each day to a new letter, left feeling violated as she discovers one by her hotel room door and the likes. One day, Rachel decides to entertain one of the letters, where Hannah requests to meet up with her and talk more, but Hannah is a no-show, only leaving a letter in the meeting place before Rachel has a chance to arrive.
The Scott Blair trial begins shortly after the first couple letters, and while on jury gathering the facts, and Hannah’s further description of the mysterious death of her sister, Rachel begins to feel a little empathy and begins notice similar details in both cases and becomes heavily invested in solving what she believes to be a strong case. Rachel starts digging around town for more information on Jenny and Hannah Stills and the Blair case. And let me tell you, Rachel is relentless in her own aspect. Rachel has the patience of a saint and a steadfast will, and she won’t stop or scare at anything to get confirmation of the answers she knows to be true. She masterfully connects the dots along the way. I thought I knew who killed Jenny Stills by 60% in the book, but dang, was I wrong.
The book is mainly written in third person under Rachel’s POV, but podcast episodes have their own chapters and are written in first person wherein Rachel describes the Blair trial with information she’s allowed to speak of — which is a fun experience for the reader, allowing us the experience to tune in to the show. Then, Hannah’s letters also have their own chapters, written in Hannah’s first person POV, which feels like an interlude from the main story while still appropriately connected to it as well.
Megan Goldin is a master at writing an emotional and mysterious novel and covers a dark yet serious topic that gives you an insight to the heartbreak families are thrown into during a traumatic experience such as the one presented to us in this novel. Lives are ruined, a true tragedy that even once justified, no one can return to the life they once knew. This is a hard review to write because of the lives in our world that have been deeply affected by such a horrendous act. My words can’t give justice to expressing the empathy I feel for those affected. This was a truly gripping and emotional book. Incredibly tense and enlightening.