Book Review

True Crime Story

True Crime Story

  • Author: Joseph Knox
  • Genre: Mystery
  • Publication Date: December 7, 2021
  • Publisher: Recorded Books

Thank you to libro.fm for providing me with an ALC of this book. I am offering my honest opinion voluntarily.

CONTENT WARNING: drug and alcohol use, self-harm, violence, suicide, racism, stalking, murder, sexual assault

Rating: 4 out of 5.

A strikingly original novel in the vein of Daisy Jones and The Six meets Riley Sager, True Crime Story twists together transcripts, emails, and documents into an investigation of a missing college girl, also weaving in the mysteries of how the narrator, “Joseph Knox”, came to be in possession of these files and what fate befell the original author, as well as why Knox might not be telling us everything he knows.

Zoe Nolan disappeared from Manchester University in 2011. Her story was sad, certainly, but hardly sensational, Joseph Knox thought. As a crime writer, he felt that dead girls were everywhere, and the missing ones just didn’t cut it. He wouldn’t have given her any more thought were it not for Evelyn Mitchell.

Another writer struggling to come up with a new idea, Evelyn attended one of Joseph’s publicity events, and she was wondering just what happened to all the girls who go missing. What were the stories there? What happened to Zoe? So Evelyn began investigating herself, and sending Joseph emails with chapters of the novel she was writing with her findings. Uneasy with the novel’s corkscrew twists and turns, Joseph pays closer attention to the real story….

True Crime Story is an ambitious, sharp exploration of our obsession with all things true crime, from a former crime book seller. 

Let me start out by saying how much I adore an audiobook that is narrated by a full cast. It somehow feels that much more real, and lent this story a feel of a documentary, which is very much what it was going for. It felt so real, that for a good portion of the book, I actually forgot that I was reading fiction. The author inserts himself into the story as well, providing a bit of perspective as to his motivation for writing the story and the process that went into the creation of this story. I actually had to research for myself to verify that this wasn’t really a true story, because I got completely sucked into it, as well as how it was presented. Honestly it all felt so believable!

It all seems fairly straightforward in the beginning. But as time went on, everything became even more convoluted. Everyone had secrets, which means that everyone comes under suspicion at some point. There were points in which I could empathize with all of the characters, but then I’d hear something from a different POV that totally changed my mind, and made me question what the person had said, and look at it a bit more critically. 

We have a whole cast of characters — Zoe, the missing girl who has been keeping a whole lot of secrets. Her shady boyfriend, Andrew and his roommate who is dealing with his own personal demons. Zoe’s twin sister, Kim. Zoe’s roommate. Some friends and other acquaintances. And through it all, there’s the author and his ongoing correspondence with Evelyn, who originally dug up the story and is breathing her own life into it, investigating all the characters and tracking down new leads. They even interview Zoe’s parents and the police who were involved. It was done fascinatingly well.

As I was led deeper down the rabbit hole, I found myself completely unable to stop listening. Not just to find out what happened to Zoe, but also to find out what was going on with the other characters. This obviously includes the author and Evelyn, since they wound up being an important part of the story, and the way that they worked together to piece together the puzzle, as well as Evelyn’s own personal issues, were quite intriguing to me. So much of the story was focused on learning who Zoe really was, and how the people who were closest to her both knew her best, yet really didn’t know her at all. And when the ending was finally revealed? I was absolutely shocked, since I never ever saw it coming. 

Ultimately, this felt like listening to a real true crime story. It had a podcast feel to it, complete with multiple interviewees, and the whole research process laid out in a slow, methodical way. I was hooked right from the start until the very end, and I’m definitely going to be keeping an eye out for anything else written by Joseph Knox. 

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