Source: Review Copy
Publication: 17 June 2021 from Doubleday
My thanks to the publisher for an early copy for review
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
I really enjoyed this stand-alone novel from Joseph Knox, an author who has already shown his considerable writing skills in his most impressive Aidan Watts series. I found True Crime Story to be original, innovative and entertaining in a really clever way. But having let it settle for several days, I find that it is also a book that gives me cause to consider it over and over. There’s a lot to this book that stays in the mind and makes me want to think through some of the attitudes that it throws up.
True Crime is unquestionably a great read and a fantastically impressive novel, but it also deals with some really rather intense questions about the nature of our celebrity culture.
True Crime Story plays on our current fascination for True Crime podcasts. In this instance, it is the case of talented music student 19 year old Zoe Nolan, who in December 2011 disappeared from her shared student accommodation in Manchester University and was never seen again.
Her case intrigues writer Evelyn Mitchell and she begins researching Zoe’s disappearance and interviewing those closest to Zoe at the time.
What the reader is party to – and how we find out the details pertaining to Zoe’s disappearance is contained in exchanges between Evelyn Mitchell and her friend, another author named, yes, you guessed it, Joseph Knox.
So what the reader gets is extracts from Evelyn’s interviews for her book, interspersed with e-mails from Evelyn to Knox and vice versa which detail the progress of the investigation and contain speculation on what these interviews mean.
Evelyn’s interviews focus on those closest to Zoe. Her twin sister Kim, Zoe’s father, Robert Nolan, her mother Sally and her closest friends Liu Wai, Andrew Flowers, Fintan Murphy and Jai Mahmood.
What emerges is a picture of a dysfunctional family and a disparate group of friends who each carry their own troubles with them. Each one of them has something they want to reveal about Zoe or one of the others in this tight circle – or to share an opinion they’ve carried around for the last ten years wanting someone to listen.
We are treated to interview transcripts and recollections from her friends and family of the night that Zoe disappeared. What emerges is a confused and unclear account of Zoe and what happened that night. Her friends are by and large unlikeable; from her boyfriend through to her unreliable sister and her obsessive dad, it seems that everyone interviewed has something they are hiding. Zoe’s father Rob is determined to take centre stage in his daughter’s dramatic disappearance while others shy away from the media spotlight.
The reader is caught up in these accounts, trying to decipher who can be believed. The more you find out, the creepier this story becomes and as the investigation goes deeper the atmosphere becomes more menacing and the story more complex. Then there’s the exchanges between Evelyn and Joseph ‘Foxy’ Knoxy which themselves tell another story….this is metafiction taken to a glorious level.
Verdict: True Crime Story really does have all the hallmarks of a real case and it feels authentic. That Joseph Knox has managed to pull off something so ambitious and absorbing is a real achievement. Fast paced and utterly addictive this blend of fiction with a factual feel is compelling and so cleverly written. True Crime Story is a brilliant tour de force.
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 his bestselling and highly praised Aidan Waits series.