True Crime Story by Joseph Knox #BookReview #BlogTour

'What happens to those girls who go missing? What happens to the Zoe Nolans of the world?’

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.

It's my pleasure to be hosting the blog tour for True Crime Story today. Many thanks to Joseph Knox, Doubleday and Anne Cater from Random Things Tours for inviting me and for my advance copy of the novel.

A young woman going missing without a trace isn't an unusual story, either in fiction or in real life. Like Zoe Nolan, they may inhabit people's minds for a time but a new bestseller is published or more poignantly, the news cycle inevitably rolls on and they become a memory, a 'whatever happened to...?' True Crime Story could have been another book about another missing woman but Joseph Knox has written a thriller which takes the seemingly insatiable fascination for real-life cases and created a novel which is not only audaciously brilliant, it's so believable, there were times where I had to remind myself it really was fiction.
The book opens with a publisher's note, explaining this is the amended second addition which includes wider context on the author's previously undisclosed role in the narrative and his response. Author and publisher, we learn, have mutually agreed to conclude their business dealings. Joseph Knox's note explaining his eager agreement to this revised edition, followed by his introduction is intriguingly meta, as are the emails between himself and Evelyn Mitchell, a fellow author.
It is Evelyn who first proposed writing a book exploring the disappearance of Zoe Nolan in 2011. She had met Knox at a signing for his debut, Sirens and the pair became friends, although his star was in the ascendancy whereas her first novel's critical acclaim wasn't matched by sales. As he works on The Smiling Man, she is struggling with what she fears may be a slow fade into obscurity until she begins to wonder what happens to the missing girls and on 25th June 2018, emails him with the subject line, 'True Crime Story'.
The novel takes the interviews she has conducted with various members of Zoe's friends and family and cuts them so their statements appear to be replies to recollections and accusations made by one another. Zoe disappeared just three months into her university course and so although most of her peers had only shared those briefly intense weeks together, the unsolved mystery as to what really happened to her has cast a shadow over all their lives. Each one is an unreliable narrator and nobody comes out of the story untouched by the events which eventually led to Zoe suddenly going missing just before Christmas. Every character is flawed, many will become suspects as the revelations about their activities mean anybody could know more that they're letting on.  
Zoe and her twin sister Kimberly had been living in the unimaginatively named Tower Block which despite being an ugly, utilitarian building, feels almost Gothic, with its dark history and chilling secrets. The intimacy of their shared space and the forging of new relationships amidst the baggage of their respective histories mean the student parties, salacious gossip and messy repercussions creates a fevered, yet entirely authentic backdrop to the book. These characters become real people and as such, the disclosures about their lives sometimes feel uncomfortably invasive and often rather poignant, particularly the troubled relationship between Zoe and Kimberly. 
The emails between Evelyn and Knox are pitch-perfect; the jokes giving way to occasional snark, their shared insecurities, the frustrating redactions. The two narratives - the  interviews with those involved in Zoe's last few months and the communication between the two writers - work superbly together. At a time when true crime as a genre is hugely popular, True Crime Story forces us to consider whether it can be a useful tool to bring forgotten cold cases back into the public eye or a dangerously manipulative form that encourages us to take sides and cast judgement without knowing all the facts. With each new persuasive piece of information revealed here suggesting a different suspect, it's only too easy to understand the impact of such an intrusion into people's lives. Whether the suspects court publicity or shun it, I found myself convinced of the guilt of one character after another in this outstanding thriller.
This is original, consummately convincing crime fiction which reminds us that behind each victim is a story - perhaps even more than one story. True Crime Story is quite rightly earning effusive praise from every quarter - including here; sophisticated, compelling and utterly brilliant, I cannot recommend it highly enough.

True Crime Story is published by Doubleday, purchasing links can be found here but please consider supporting independent bookshops whenever possible.

Don't miss the rest of the blog tour, details are below.

About the Author
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 the series. True Crime Story is a standalone.


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