This established WA-based writer examines notions of truth, gender, identity and acceptance in a compelling novel about a cold-case podcast.
Truth is like a lens we apply to everything we see, it is malleable and transformative, we can bend it, mould it, shape it, vanish it. We do this to present the versions of ourselves we want the world to see, and to hide the versions we can’t bear to reveal.
Newly returned to Western Australia, journalist Amy Rhinehart pitches a crime podcast to increase her radio station’s ratings. Her idea: to use the listeners of the show as its co-creators, with live-time calls and suggestion boards. The case: Jonah Scott, charged and imprisoned for life for the murder of his girlfriend, transgender woman Casey Williams. Jonah went to great lengths to hide the body – but when arrested, confessed immediately and pleaded guilty, negating the need for a trial. Amy believes there is something darker at the heart of this case and sets about finding the truth, investigating a world of drugs, sex, gender identity and religious cults.
Threaded through the main narrative, the podcast transcripts represent a story-within-a-story, exploring the characters of Jonah and Casey and the relationship between them, interwoven with Amy’s investigation into the cult run by Jonah’s family and its potential involvement in Casey’s murder.
A captivating read. I really enjoyed this style of writing – the mix of “script/podcast” style of narration, of interviews, the investigative aspects, and the thought provoking, cotemporary issues surrounding gender and identity that are sensitively woven into the mystery.
This read also has a great sense of place. I can easily picture the the fruit picking regions, the cult, the farms, the rural isolated towns, the city radio stations and the competitive nature of the presenters time slots, it all has an authentic feel.
McCaffrey seamlessly weaves in many thought provoking movements in what is presented as an investigation into a murder, it is a search for the why not the who (or is it?), as we already have a self confessed, perpetrator in prison for the crime (to me this has a feel of a docu/mockumentary), I like this style. The protagonist is determined to discover the “truth”, and again we are drawn into a discussion about truth and how it presented, how we want to read it… how our opinions can be swayed.
I applaud the author, she does not shy away from presenting an ending that will be uncomfortable and maybe unexpected (it was for me) , an ending that doesnt neatly and mundanely tie the narration up into what we presume is going to be the outcome (no spoilers here) … it is too easy to give the reader an expected conclusion.
A great topical and contemporary read with more than a few surprises.
What an interesting approach to mixing fiction with real-life realities, Carol! I’m intrigued! And the case itself sounds intriguing, too. Little wonder you were engaged.