True Crime Story by Joseph Knox

Today I am sharing my thoughts on True Crime Story by Joseph Knox. I actually listened to the audiobook version of the book which was gifted by publisher Penguin Random House, although I have subsequently treated myself to a lovely signed hardback copy with it’s very lovely pink sprayed edges. Here’s what the book is all about;

Source: Netgalley
Release Date: 17 June 2021
Publisher: Penguin Random House/Transworld Books

About the Book

‘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.

My Thoughts

Oh this is a very clever book. Everything, from the almost shocking and jaw dropping foreword, through to the astonishing and almost emotional conclusion, is pitched perfectly and works so well in the hands of the multi-narrator cast for the audiobook that I found myself completely engrossed in everything about it. This is what original fiction should be. It was both unique and yet all to familiar and had I not known this was a work of fiction, I would have sworn that I was listening to a true crime podcast or something very, very similar. And because this is a work of ‘metafiction ‘ – a made up story mimicking the styling of a true crime book, you even have the author as narrator experience as part of the audiobook which adds something very special to the portrayal in it’s own unique way.

This is almost a book within a book – the author recounting his experience working with another author on developing a true crime story which looks into the unsolved disappearance of a University student, Zoe Nolan, from her apartment building in Manchester in 2011. Author Evelyn Mitchell is determined to uncover the truth behind Zoe’s disappearance and we learn very early on that her investigations are not without their problems. The story is told through a series of interviews with family and friends of the missing woman, as well as being interspersed with scenes narrated by the author, Joseph Knox, which echo the kind of narrative and the supposition and speculation that are to be found in all true crime fiction. Scene setting, directing the attention of the reader to the key elements of all we are reading or hearing. It feels like a true story, every part of it screaming authenticity, and in that respect, having it narrated, rather than reading it myself, gave it a podcast kind of air.

I don’t want to go too far into the ‘case’ but it is fair to say that there are a whole host of suspects, the kind of unreliable witnesses that make getting to the heart of the story so very difficult. There are few voices which felt trustworthy, all of then authentic in portrayal but problematic in terms of their history and the involvement with the victim. We are drawn into Zoe’s complex and tangled world, from twisted family relationships to unexpected friendships and a pseudo-celebrity status that makes her undeniably popular. And yet nothing is as it appears on the surface and the more evidence that we are provided with, the more confusing the tale becomes, but in a way that still makes perfect sense.

I really liked the style of this book. It reminded me of so many true crime books that I have read, focusing on the life of the victim and trying to piece together her final days and suppose what might have happened. We hear from not only the friends and family, including her twin sister who is accused of jealousy and yet makes a compelling case to the contrary, but also the police involved in the investigation, and whilst this may be a ‘cold case’, it feels current and very real, Joseph Knox capturing the feeling of fact within a world of pure fiction.

If you like crime novels and you enjoy true crime stories, then I would heartily recommend this book – it’s a perfect blend of both worlds. I started listening to this book whilst on holiday with Mandie, and she was so engrossed, she had to buy a copy too just to finish listening to it. For me, the audiobook really made it live, and the multi-cast recording was absolutely spot on, instilling in me a mix of emotions as I felt myself warming, and taking exception, to the various people brought into my world. This is a complex story but one which, as a work of fiction, is very clever. As a blended style of narrative, it is absolutely brilliant. And there is a twist in this tale, one that will may knock the wind out of your sails, but one which just seems to tragically fit. Definitely recommended.

About the Author

Joseph Knox was born and raised in and around Stoke and Manchester, where he worked in bars and bookshops before moving to London. He runs, writes and reads compulsively. His debut novel Sirens was a bestseller and has been translated into eighteen languages. The Smiling Man and The Sleepwalker are the second and third books in the series.

True Crime Story is a standalone.

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