It was bound to happen.
The rise in popularity of podcasts has turned the form into a compelling backdrop for crime fiction. I, for one, love this concept because it brings together two of my most favorite pastimes. A fan of storytelling in all its structures, I am now more likely to listen to a podcast than to music (although Stevie Ray Vaughn still tops my list of all audio choices). There’s nothing quite like a good podcast to distract me from the drudgery of household chores or other tasks I’d rather ignore.
So, when I discovered some of my favorite crime fiction authors had released novels with a podcast element, I was all ears (and eyes). My two top picks are:
CONVICTION by Denise Mina: A Glasgow housewife trapped in a troubled marriage finds herself in danger once she realizes her favorite true crime podcast hits too close to home. One morning, while Anna McDonald is wrapped up listening to a true crime podcast as she’s getting her kids ready for school, her husband says something to her that changes the course of her life. She retreats back to the comfort of her podcast, one that tells the story of a murdered family, a sunken luxury yacht and a mystery that includes international intrigue. Anna realizes that she knows the victims from her previous life and believes she knows the truth about what happened to the family. Soon, Anna is on the run with a troubled neighbor in tow, and both of their lives are in danger.
CONVICTION was one of my favorite recent reads. I realize it’s quite different from Mina’s other novels, and I love her willingness to experiment. Mina’s ability to tackle difficult topics of trauma, relationships and ownership of one’s private history while doing so with a bit of dark humor and soul is a rare talent that should be recognized. A big thanks to Scott Montgomery at BookPeople for suggesting this book. I now have several other Mina novels on my TBR.
NEVER LOOK BACK by Alison Gaylin: True crime podcaster Quentin Garrison is investigating a horrific crime spree (called the Inland Empire Killings) that took place in Southern California in the 1970s by troubled lovers April Cooper and Gabriel LeRoy. Quentin has a very personal stake in the story; he believes April and Gabriel are the reason for his difficult childhood. April and Gabriel were thought to have perished in a fire at the end of their crime spree, but now new evidence comes to light. When Quentin receives a tip that April might still be alive, he pursues the truth at any cost.
NEVER LOOK BACK is told from the viewpoints of characters most impacted by the Inland Empire killings. Gaylin explores the concept of how well we know ourselves, our parents and those close to us through the prism of digging into the past and questioning what we thought we knew. The book’s twisty plot will keep readers guessing. Gaylin touches on current topics while also exploring the deeper issues of the stories we tell ourselves and how far we’re willing to push to find answers that we may—or may not—want to know.