Rachel Krall is the host of a highly successful true crime podcast, Guilty or Not Guilty, and she’s on her way to Neapolis, North Carolina to cover a contentious rape trial for her second season. She’s taken extraordinary care to keep her physical identity secret and her audience has not seen her likeness. So, she’s unnerved when she finds a note addressed to her placed on the rental car outside a diner on the outskirts of Neapolis. The note, from Hannah Stills, asks for her help in examining the drowning death of her sister Jenny in the same town 25 years ago. She believes she was murdered.
The story is a chilling examination of our rape culture, both past and present. The trial serves as a microcosm of the issues surrounding how victims are treated, the unique nature of how the cases are tried in our court systems and how both the alleged victims and rapists are often characterized. It’s a difficult one to absorb from any perspective, extremely hard for me as I’ve been a longtime advocate of change in our system. The young woman at the center of this case typifies the victims who decide to take their assaults to trial. The town splits sides as the young man who is accused of raping her is also symbolic of many of those on trial in that he comes from an upstanding family, is viewed positively in the community and asserts that the sex was consensual. The situation is tough enough but made even more heartbreaking as Rachel investigates what happened to Jenny Stills a generation ago.
I’m so glad I opted to listen to this book as excerpts of Rachel’s podcast are included throughout the trial, making this more compelling as we get to see how the trial is capsulized in every episode (what better way to take in a podcast!). And, the main narrator is my most favorite, January LaVoy who delivered another great performance (they all did). While this is a difficult topic, it’s brilliant in its presentation of controversial issues that keep you riveted. The courtroom drama was palatable and the mystery of what happened to Jenny kept me hooked as I looked for connections and resolution. I’m deliberately not sharing anything related to the ending not only to avoid spoiling it for new readers/listeners but to emphasize that the journey getting there is even more important. This is a must read, but especially on audio.
- Release Date: August 4, 2020
- Narrators: Bailey Carr, January LaVoy & Samantha Desz
- Audio Length: 9 hours, 59 minutes
- Publisher: Macmillan Audio