Updated: Sep 12, 2022
Pub Date: August 16th 2022
In the propulsive debut novel from the host of the #1 true crime podcast "Crime Junkie," a journalist uncovers her hometown’s dark secrets when she becomes obsessed with the unsolved murder of her childhood neighbor—and the disappearance of another girl twenty years later.
Everyone from Wakarusa, Indiana, remembers the case of January Jacobs, who was found dead in a ditch hours after her family awoke to find her gone. Margot Davies was six at the time, the same age as January—and they were next-door neighbors. In the twenty years since, Margot has grown up, moved away, and become a big-city journalist, but she’s always been haunted by the fear that it could’ve been her. And the worst part is, January’s killer has never been brought to justice.
When Margot returns home to help care for her sick uncle, it feels like walking into a time capsule. Wakarusa is exactly how she remembered: genial, stifled, secretive. Then news breaks about five-year-old Natalie Clark from the next town over, who’s gone missing under eerily similar circumstances. With all the old feelings rushing back, Margot vows to find Natalie and solve January’s murder once and for all.
But the police, the family, the townspeople—they all seem to be hiding something. And the deeper Margot digs into Natalie’s disappearance, the more resistance she encounters, and the colder January’s case feels. Could the killer still be out there? Could it be the same person who kidnapped Natalie? And what will it cost to finally discover what truly happened that night?
full. body. chills.
I have to say, I was worried coming into this book. I have been a huge fan of the crime junkie podcast since I stumbled on it at the end of 2018. I heard a crossover ad while listening to another podcast, true crime obsessed, and I was hooked; i tore quickly through the whole year's worth of back catalog episodes and have listened to every single episode since. imagine my excitement when, earlier this year, I saw the announcement on publisher's weekly that this book was signed and coming out in august. it immediately jumped to the top of my must read list. I'm so grateful to have received the uncorrected proof and will definitely preorder the book so I can have a permanent copy for my personal library.
given all of this, when I started reading I was worried my opinions about the book would be tainted by my love for the podcast and the production style I've come to expect. I wanted to be unbiased when I read the book. I wanted to make sure that the lens I was reading through allowed me to separate my love for Ashley, brit, chuck, and everyone and everything associated with the podcast and this book.
at first it was a very difficult task. it's easy to see how ashley drew her experience working and researching cases and how it spilled into this book and, in those first few chapters, some of the parallels were so obvious it was hard for me to focus. but as i combed through the book, i couldn't help but be sucked into the story; sucked into wakarusa, indiana and the plot that was created around this small town. before i knew it hours had passed and the day flew by. i finished the book in a day. pausing only to eat and take a quick nap with my pups (champ and freyja of the champ stamp).
since this book isn't scheduled to publish until august, this review will be entirely spoiler free. that said, the book kept me on my toes. it made me question my own opinions about the case that turned me into a crime junkie and with every page, I felt I was no closer to figuring out whodunnit until the very end. and that is something I love in a book. something I've been yearning for. the characters were well developed and felt relatable. the ending book was haunting and left hanging; something that would normally irritate me, but also felt really good for this book. I'm curious if it changes in the finished product and if that will change my opinion.
while I enjoyed book 23: I, Antigone & trudged through the end of book 24: Darling girl, both books were just short of the satisfaction I craved. I wanted something that would pull me in and hold me hostage in a way that all good people here managed to do. and what better proof have I of this than being compelled to write this review immediately after finishing the book, on July 1st at 3 am, knowing full well that I will have to save it as a draft and publish it after I finish writing the review for book 23 and write the review for 24.
maybe part of this is tinged in my bias, and maybe it's not. either way, this book was an excellent debut and I am so excited to see what else Ashley does next.
... now if you'll excuse me, I've got some reading to do.