True crime writer Gage Chandler, the protagonist of John Darnielle’s Devil House, jumps at the opportunity to live at the “Devil House,” a building where two gruesome, possibly satanic murders took place in 1986. Blamed on some rebellious teenagers, the case remains unsolved. Once Gage moves in and starts researching the murders, he’s drawn into a deeper examination of the significance of his own work. At once a magnetic thriller and an intriguing look at the true crime genre, Darnielle’s novel is filled with rich themes for discussion, including the slippery nature of crime reporting and the demands of the artistic process.
In Gilly Macmillan’s I Know You Know, Cody Swift seeks closure regarding his two childhood friends’ murders, which occurred 20 years ago in Bristol, England. Undertaking his own investigation, Cody returns to Bristol in search of new information and launches a podcast to share his story. But then a body is discovered in the same place Cody’s friends were found, and soon a new homicide investigation is underway. Macmillan incorporates flashbacks to Cody’s childhood and episodes of his podcast in this sophisticated, multilayered mystery.
Denise Mina’s Conviction tells the story of Anna McDonald, who loses herself in true crime podcasts as she struggles to put her painful past behind her. After Anna’s husband leaves her for her best friend, Estelle, Anna connects with Estelle’s husband, singer Fin Cohen. Together they delve into the murder case that’s the subject of Anna’s favorite podcast and start a podcast of their own. When Anna realizes that she is linked to the case, a tragic chapter from her life is reopened. Mina’s skillful development of multiple plot lines and crack comic timing will give reading groups plenty to talk about.
In Megan Goldin’s The Night Swim, Rachel Krall, host of the popular true crime podcast “Guilty or Not Guilty,” travels to a small North Carolina town to report on the trial of swimming champion Scott Blair. Accused of raping the teenage granddaughter of the local police chief, Scott and his case have attracted national attention. While in North Carolina, Rachel is also drawn to a cold case involving the drowning of a 16-year-old that took place more than two decades before. As she works to unravel the two cases, she realizes that they share disturbing parallels. Goldin builds a mood of intense suspense in this searing look at how crime can impact a small community.