“The Night Swim” is a tale of social media, obsession, and murder. Rachel Krall is a crime beat journalist covering a rape trial for her “Guilty or Not Guilty” podcast. She finds a note on her car window; Jenny tragically died when she was just sixteen. This is both a tip for a future podcast and a desperate request for help. Events are documented day by day as Rachael does background investigation, observes trial proceedings, and follows this lead for a new potential story. Transcripts of the podcast detailing the trial are interspersed with chapters detailing Rachael’s investigations, experiences, actions, and reactions in addition to a first person narrative from Hannah, Jenny’s sister, telling her side of the story.
The trial is complex and controversial, just the thing to spark conversations and arguments. A young man’s good name and reputation have been dragged through the mud, and yet the teenage girl who made the accusations is equally traumatized. Why make false accusations knowing the devastating consequences for all involved? A social media frenzy surrounds the trial, and ordinary things are far from ordinary. Politeness and etiquette do not apply in the virtual world, and scathing comments are posted about all involved. People say things online they would never say to someone’s face. The situation becomes a crowdsourcing of justice, almost an online poll to decide innocence and guilt, without regard to the jury system or the law.
As Rachel continues her coverage and investigation, readers find the stories intertwine, two stories, two girls, twenty-five years apart. The stories are separate, detached, and different, but somehow parallel, similar, and related. Both had drawn Rachael to the same city.
“The Night Swim” seeks justice for diverse participants. I received a review copy of “The Night Swim” from Megan Goldin and St. Martin’s Press. It is compelling and thought provoking.