I am conflicted as I write this review. The Night Swim by Megan Goldin had all the makings of a knock out thriller, but a major part of the storyline did not sit well with me. This one has been marketed as one of the biggest thrillers this summer, which I disagree with because it is more of a legal suspense. The main protagonist, Rachel, is the host of a popular true crime podcast. She is following the trial of a rape case that took place in a quiet coastal town where the victim is the granddaughter of the retired police chief and the accused is a champion college swimmer destined for the Olympics until his reputation is tarnished by the criminal charges. While doing so, Rachel stumbles across a cold case that was deemed an accidental death that has similar markings to the current rape trial.
Does any part of that sound familiar?
If your mind went where mine did, it sounds eerily similar to Chanel Miller's story. That stuck in my mind when I learned this affluent college student was a champion swimmer who then lost all his scholarships and Olympic dreams because he claimed he was falsely accused of rape. This storyline isn't so much a storyline, as it is mirrored after a real event that happened to Chanel and is her story to tell. I could not get past this and therefore, it affected how I felt about the book overall.
What did I like? It is fast paced and you will read it within a few sittings. The chapters switch back and forth between Rachel narrating her podcast episodes, to Rachel investigating a past murder case that happened years prior, but was brushed under the legal rug and deemed an accidental drowning. Rachel is receiving cryptic letters from the deceased kid sister and becomes enthralled with uncovering what really happened. It's an engrossing and quick read.
I did like the overall message of sexual assault, consent, and victim blaming. I liked the tie ins with how the criminal justice system handles these types of crimes and how difficult it is on victims. Rachel makes a comment during one of her podcast episodes that we all can agree so strongly on a crime like murder, yet when it comes to sexual assault and rape, we are divided. This conclusion is startling and true. The law treats rape differently than it does other crimes and, in this case, there is a victim alive to tell their part of the story. But when a victim is murdered, the blame is not placed on them for the death. The double standard is outlandish, but also our current reality. That message was great and what I took out of this book. What I didn't like, was the similarities to Chanel Miller's story. We could have done without the rapist being a collegiate swimmer from a wealthy family. The similarities just rubbed me the wrong way.
If you are a fan of legal suspense and legal thrillers, think The Holdout, but more predictable and less murder-y (is that a word? If not, I'm making it one) you will enjoy this one.