The Night Swim

by Megan Goldin

It was Jenny’s death that killed my mother the letter went on. Killed her as good as if she’d been shot in the chest with a twelve-gauge shotgun.

Thought it was late morning on a hot summer’s day and her car was heating up like an oven, Rachel felt a chill run through her.

I’ve spent my life running away from the memories. Hurting myself. And others. It took the trial in Neapolis to make me face up to my past. That is why I am writing you, Rachel. Jenny’s killer will be there. In that town. Maybe in that courtroom. It’s time for justice to be done. You’re the only one who can help me deliver it.”

Ratings & Reviews

Book Grade: A

The Night Swim checks all the boxes, and more! It has two compelling mysteries – one from the past and one in the present – and a protagonist who is rooting for justice to unfold in both cases. I so appreciated that the contemporary case was balanced with podcast scripts – it cleverly recounted the details and kept me questioning what really happened on the night of the supposed rape. I also loved Hannah’s letters recounting the mysterious events surrounding her sister’s death. These shed light on the past in a really natural way that kept the story fresh and compelling.

It was so easy to root for Rachel and root for justice in these two seemingly unrelated crimes that ultimately are incredibly intertwined. The end was filled with unexpected revelations and when I finished, I found that I wanted to listen to Rachel’s podcast to hear the stories of the other cases she referenced throughout. The Night Swim is a total win for fans of true crime podcasts, contemporary mysteries, and cleverly written suspense novels.

Movie Rating: PG-13

The Night Swim covers some incredibly delicate topics. Teens drinking, using drugs, partying, and rape allegations. The accused rapist – Scott Blair – is a hometown golden boy destined for Olympic glory as a swimming phenom. The accuser – Kelly Moore – is a young teenager with disloyal friends and a legacy family who has helped shape the town for decades. The tension between those who believe the rape allegations and those who don’t is palpable and unfolds like any small town crime would – people take sides and the community is divided. Because of the nature of this case, there are some sensitive topics – sexual misconduct and consent are discussed openly in court, but are also referenced with Jenny’s mysterious death in the past. This book has lots of dark corners with each member of the case hiding skeletons in the closet. While they are more mature in nature, these secrets and hidden events are part of what make the story so compelling overall.

As a novel, this book is realistic, gritty, and addictive, but it technically is not a YA novel. It deals with mature themes, but not in a superfluous way – all the deals of intercourse are relevant to the court case or the mystery from the past. There is limited swearing, and while there is reference to drug use among some of the characters, they are openly disparaged for their poor choices. Overall, for the YA mystery fan looking to branch out and try out a more mature read, this might be the perfect jumping off point!

Would I Buy This for My Library: Yes

The Night Swim is cleverly written and unique in its scope. The balance between the contemporary case and the podcast, and the mystery that Hannah presents from the past makes for a fabulous read. Yes, this book is for readers who can handle the central conflicts – a small-town rape case that will leave readers questioning evidence and all parties involved – but it is a cleverly written novel that will keep readers hooked.

Summary:

The Night Swim is addictive from the first chapter. Rachel is the host of a successful true crime podcast, working to take listeners through cases and help determine if the accused is Guilty or Not Guilty, as the title so cleverly implies. With thousands of devoted fans, Rachel decides to try something new for her third season – take listeners through a current trial. This is entirely different, though, because this is a rape trial in a small town where everyone knows the victim and the accused. Things will be far from objective as Rachel works to get to the truth.

Before Rachel can even make it into town, though, she finds a note on her windshield referencing another crime that took place twenty-five years ago. Initially not wanting to get involved so that she can focus on her podcast and the incredibly complex rape trial that is unfolding, Rachel is drawn in as Hannah (the victim’s sister) continues to leave mysterious notes for her, adding to the story of how Jenny was targeted and eventually murdered. Rachel can’t help but be drawn in and works tirelessly to find the the truth of a young girl’s death in a town that wants to ignore the past while simultaneously trying to get to the heart of a rape story that very well could divide the town in the future.

With multiple narratives from Rachel and Hannah, and a perfect balance of mysteries in the past and present, The Night Swim is clever and engaging. The podcast segments scattered throughout the book added another layer to the mystery and proved Rachel to be an insightful and dedicated investigative journalist. The complexities and intricacies of both cases are not lost in the suspense and Megan Goldin manages to balance the psychological, physical, and emotional aspects of mysteries in a small town. With unexpected twists and two mysteries that will hook you for very different reasons, this book is a thrill to read!

Book Talk Questions:

  1. Describe Lexi. How are her actions central to Kelly’s accusations? Can she be trusted?
  2. Hannah’s story of her sister’s death unfolds slowly. Why does she not tell Jenny’s story all at once? What is she hoping Rachel will be able to do?
  3. What evidence exists to support Scott’s side of the rape case? What evidence exists to support Kelly’s side?
  4. What does Rachel learn from the worker at the coroner’s office? What evidence did he have that showed that Jenny’s death was suspicious?
  5. Who is able to help provide evidence to close the court case? Why is this unexpected?
  6. Who was to blame for Jenny’s death? Why will that person never face jail time? Who thought that they were to blame and how did that shape their life?

A Perfect Read for Fans Of…

  • Escape Room by Megan Goldin
  • Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
  • Sadie by Courtney Summers
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