Darkly mysterious, this book simultaneously centres on a rape trial and a historic murder in a small town. Using the true crime podcast trope, this was perfectly suited to the audiobook format, with performances that brought the story to life. It seemed at first to be a smooth-sailing success.
A gruelling book, I felt sucker-punched by a lot of the subject matter. Which is as it should be- I don’t want another precious, artsy book exploring the subject. And this doesn’t do that. Showing not only the horror of rape in raw and unfiltered terms, it also explores the topic of how harsh the justice system is for victims and how too often public sympathy is with the perpetrator.
However, as with a lot of #MeToo books, this falls into the ideological quagmire of opposing jury trials. Rather than suggesting support for victims or another practical solution, it rages against the concept of a jury trial as “archaic” (with the presumed alternative being the far more archaic “guilty until proven guiltier”). I just don’t understand why books like this want to fight injustice with further injustice. Arguing against evidentiary support is paving the way towards kangaroo courts and witch trials- as if those have ever ended well for any society. It’s not, as the book purports, the question of 10 guilty men going free- it’s a question of punishing hundreds of innocent people.
I also didn’t entirely agree with the way the book explores trauma. There is a fine line between recognising the damage done and describing women as irrevocably broken- and I felt this verged into the latter, implying there was no life after. It is a pity that when characters do speak out, only their vulnerability is highlighted, instead of their strength. I just think these tropes are so unhelpful for healing.
Still, I did like how this wove together two women’s stories- although how they converged at the end did raise eyebrows. I mean, aside from the decision to go and confront a killer (with only a phone between them… that they weren’t even using to livestream?!) And I also found the choice of villain realllly depressing- even if it was clearly signposted and made sense. I dunno, as the main character said, I wish it had been *anyone else*.
Now I may have flooded this review with negativity- but I really don’t think it’s a bad book. A lot of the execution was on point- even if some of my criticisms drown that out.
Rating: 3½/5 bananas
So, have you read this book? Am I being overly critical? Let me know in the comments!