Review: True Crime Story by Joseph Knox

The Book:

The synopsis of this book is a tough one to summarise without giving anything away. When I’ve tried to describe it to friends whilst recommending it, I’ve ended up rambling on and interrupting myself with “oh and…”. So, here’s the synopsis as listed online:

‘What happens to those girls who go missing? What happens to the Zoe Nolans of the world?’

In the early hours of Saturday 17 December 2011, Zoe Nolan, a nineteen-year-old Manchester University student, walked out of a party taking place in the shared accommodation where she had been living for three months.

She was never seen again.

Seven years after her disappearance, struggling writer Evelyn Mitchell finds herself drawn into the mystery. Through interviews with Zoe’s closest friends and family, she begins piecing together what really happened in 2011. But where some versions of events overlap, aligning perfectly with one another, others stand in stark contrast, giving rise to troubling inconsistencies.

Shaken by revelations of Zoe’s secret life, and stalked by a figure from the shadows, Evelyn turns to crime writer Joseph Knox to help make sense of a case where everyone has something to hide.

Zoe Nolan may be missing presumed dead, but her story is only just beginning.

This is Joseph Knox’s fourth novel and what he himself described as his “most ambitious work” so far.

The Review:

I requested an ARC of this from Netgalley after hearing some early buzz about it. I’d not read anything of the author’s before but was intrigued by the premise.

As is briefly mentioned in the synopsis above, the story is told through transcripts of interviews with Zoe’s friends and family which are interspersed with emails between Joseph Knox and Evelyn Mitchell. I find this type of storytelling very addictive; I always want to just devour the next nugget of information and the next and the next….

We’re all True Crime addicts, aren’t we? The success of things like Making a Murderer and Tiger King show that we’re all just desperate for a peek of that dirty underbelly of human nature. So, Knox’s idea of taking this fascination and twisting it into a fictional narrative is genius and works really well. Adding to this is the intentional blurring of lines between fiction and reality by inserting himself into the book as a minor character, backed up by a note from his publisher stating that, following his involvement and failure to disclose it in an earlier edition of the book, they will no longer be working with him.

The story itself twists and turns, with family members and new friends alike taking the spotlight in turn as potential culprit. Not many of the characters are particularly likeable, but they felt real and I got a real sense of them from the interview snippets. I was thoroughly satisfied by the plot and the outcome and didn’t see what was going to happen until just before it was revealed.

I’d recommend this to any fans of true crime or crime fiction in general. Fans of the Six Stories series by Matt Wesolowksi might enjoy this too as it has a similar blend of true crime and a novel story telling method. As I said, it’s the first of the author’s I’ve read but have had his other books recommended and will certainly be watching out for what comes next.

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